Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Why Voting is Important — Especially in Local Elections

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Folks, I voted today.

Why is this a big deal? Well, there were no truly contested races on the ballot, except for school board — and as I have no children, you might think I’d not care about that. (Of course, if you did think that way, you’d be wrong. But I digress.) Which is why some people sit small elections like today’s out.

But they shouldn’t.

It’s important to vote in local elections, no matter how small they may seem. People who get elected to the school board, or the county board of supervisors, or are elected as judges need to be held accountable — and need to be fully apprised of what’s going on in and around their own, particular area in order to make good decisions.

Local control is important.

I say all this because we had two elections today in Wisconsin that are highly unusual, because outside influences got heavily involved in them. The first was for the County Board of Supervisors in tiny Iron County, Wisconsin — which has as a population for the entire county around 6,000 (no misprint). And the second was for the Kenosha Unified School Board election, Kenosha being right on the Illinois border and having about 85,000 people within the city, perhaps as many as 170,000 in the county.

And the group that got involved in both cases was Americans for Prosperity, a group widely known to have been founded by the Koch Brothers.

Now, why should the Koch Brothers or AFP care about Iron County, WI? Well, according to this article from NorthlandNewscenter.com, it’s all because of a taconite mine. A billionaire named Chris Cline wants to open the mine according to the Daily Beast, but the Chippewa Indian tribe has objected, along with many environmentalists.

That’s why AFP and the Koch Brothers got involved, apparently — they want this taconite mine to go forward, and they have pumped well over $100,000 of advertising into the sleepy little county to get their own way.

They’ve also apparently recruited or helped to recruit ten candidates to challenge the fifteen incumbents on the Board of Supervisors, as usually the people on this particular supervisory board run unopposed — not because people don’t care, but because it can be hard to find fifteen civic-minded souls who want the job in little Iron County.

So there are fifteen seats, with ten being contested this time around, and a whole lot of misleading advertising thrown into the mix. There also appears to be a rather unusual connection to Governor Scott Walker and many of the Republicans currently sitting in the state Legislature that is accounting for at least some of the involvement by AFP (you need to read the Daily Beast article to find out why), which just screams that something strange is going on here.

As writer Dean Obeidallah says for the Daily Beast:

This all appears to be legal, but I doubt I’m the only one who feels something is horribly wrong. This is reminiscent of the “cooper kings” who in the early 1900’s controlled Montana politics with their mining money.

Rest assured, Mr. Obeidallah, that you are far from the only one who feels this is morally wrong, as well as more than a little bit underhanded.

But all of that, bad as it is, pales in some ways to what’s going on in Kenosha. (Kenosha, for those of you not from Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, is Racine’s nearest neighbor to the south and is the first big city you drive through if you’re on I-94 driving into Wisconsin.)

Here in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had a fight on our hands with regards to private charter schools versus public education. Racine was one of the first “pilot programs” in the state for private charter schools being funded by taxpayer dollars, and we didn’t exactly do very well — yet the program has been expanded, little by little, even though privately-owned charter schools have been proven thus far to actually be educating children even more poorly than the public schools.

Well, Kenosha Unified School District has been vocal in the past about the need for more funding for public schools. They do not want to see private schools expand into the Kenosha area whatsoever. And they have continued to be a staunch supporter of the teacher’s union.

All three of those things are apparently things AFP and the Koch Brothers do not support.

Let’s be honest here. The main reason the Rs in Wisconsin want private charter schools is to break the remains of the teacher’s union here in Wisconsin. So a pro-union district like Kenosha or Racine is a big, fat target to them.

That’s why AFP — a long-time supporter of both the national and Wisconsin Rs — got involved in, of all things, the Kenosha Unified School Board election.

So there you have it: AFP has inserted itself into not one, but two local elections because they apparently see their own interests in taconite mining and private charter schools at risk.

When the Republicans, in and out of Wisconsin, are all supposedly for “local control,” this sort of interference really seems hypocritical.

Anyway, it’ll be hours before all the results come in with regards to both elections, but I’ll try to write a follow-up blog tomorrow about whatever happened, and whatever lessons can be learned after the fact.

But for now, make no mistake about it — local elections are important.

And the Koch Brothers know it.

 

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