In the middle of a patch of political signs is a placard with “Handyman” and a phone number. The Franklin candidates, like the Handyman, believe that they can fix things. The question is - what is broken?
Voter involvement, or lack thereof, is often cited as a fundamental shortcoming of the political process. On the local level, voter turnout can be virtually non-existent. In 2011, a whopping 10 percent of voters turned out in Macon County for the Franklin and Highlands elections. And, that tenth of the population only included those registered to vote. So the real number is that 90 percent-plus of the citizenry stayed away from the polls. In all fairness, not only did voters ignore the election but so did potential candidates. There was not a contested position for the town of Franklin and all the incumbents were elected with only 60-odd votes each.
I don’t fault folks for apathy. We all are apathetic about plenty of things. We don’t have the capacity for infinite interests. In the case of politics in general and voting in particular, it’s a matter of perceived relevance. It’s silly to tell/ask someone to vote who isn’t concerned with the matter. “Civic duty” is a nice catch phrase, but the right to vote is also the right not to vote.
However, for those who do like to get involved with the makeup of government, the local scene is arguably the most rewarding venue. Ten are running for aldermen positions and the mayoral race appears to be a heated contest. For those eligible to vote, there must be someone you are related to or are friends with. There is also a good spread of idealogical perspectives in the field of candidates for electorate motivated by more lofty voting ideals.
Soon to be ex-mayor, Joe Collins, is very passionate about Tuesday’s election. “I may be a lame duck, but I’m not a dead duck,” says Collins when asked about his concerns with town governance. He is excited about the prospect of greater community involvement that comes from an election that is stacked with a varied slate of candidates, including those who are nowhere near retirement age.
Youthful candidates and others new to politics may lack experience, but that can be an advantage. In most professions, the more experience, the better. In politics, there is a point of diminishing returns. A certain amount of experience can help someone understand how the “system” works, but in time, it can morph into “working the system.”
Luckily, we don’t have to worry about the adage of absolute power corrupting absolutely. This is after all, only Franklin we’re talking about. To be sure, there are issues with the town that need to be addressed. Like all relationships, the town government, and the people it affects can benefit from better communication. The next step in the “talking” process is Nov. 5. We’ll see what gets fixed.