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Make a real difference in politics: Vote in your local elections this Tuesday

Local government is not some nameless bureaucracy. It is filled with people that live in your community and want to hear your feedback.

Election Day Information

Election Day: November 5

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The next elections are coming up soon on November 5

The next elections are coming up soon on November 5 /Steven Depolo

Being a recent college graduate, I know how time consuming daily life can be. Elections, especially local, barely even seem to blip the radar in between errands, jobs and making food. I admit, I was one of those students who did not pay attention to what was happening in the city. Local elections? When do those happen?

Since I've been working at The Rapidian, I've been able to learn much more about elections, local government and the people that run it.

Local government is not some nameless bureaucracy. It is filled with people that live in your community and want to hear your feedback. In order to improve the city, they need to know what you think would improve it. I recently interviewed Sharon Brinks, a mayoral candidate who was very adamant about hearing from her local constituents. In Kentwood, despite having a population of around 50,000 people and 33,000 registered voters, only 4,100 people voted in the primary elections in Kentwood. That's around 12% of registered voters and only 8% of the total population. Every local politician I met with was eager to hear people's opinions at the polls.

There are many people that don't get out to vote in local elections even though their daily lives are affected greatly.

For example, a big push for more funding to improve roads has started in Grand Rapids and police consolidation may take place in the county. These are things that affect everyone every day. You can see the direct effect that your tax dollars have and you have a choice in what that money goes towards. All you have to do is vote.

Each person can have a much stronger voice in the local government as well. I went to a Planning Commission public hearing and they were discussing the issue of expanding a parking lot. Sure, not the most exciting thing but when neighbors showed up to discuss its negative impact, the commission did not pass it. The fact that people just showed up and voiced their opinions was enough to affect the decision of the city. Local government is very receptive both at public hearings and the polls. 

It may seem difficult to first get involved and find information but Grand Rapids has been making it easier for citizens to get to know local politicians, especially the younger generation who use social media often. On the City's facebook page, information is posted frequently on what is going on in the city. There are blogs on Youtube from Mayor George Heartwell and City Manager Greg Sundstrom. In addition, every month both Mayor Heartwell and City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss engage their constituents directly with their shows City Connection and Bliss for GR.

These are just a few of the reasons to vote in local elections. You can see what your tax dollars are being put towards. You can affect local decisions. Because you can when so many others in the world can't. Because you call Grand Rapids home.

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