I am increasingly interested in local politics. On May 6, Hampton is having elections for Mayor, City Council seats, and school board seats. This is an interesting election, since we had our previous mayor leave to work on a national level. This opened up some additional seats for election as folks shuffled around to fill her position. We have 7 folks running for 3 regular city council seats, 2 folks running for one special election council seat, and 2 folks running for mayor. There are 5 seats out of 7 that are up for election.
In the past, my votes for city council have been woefully uninformed. On a state or national level, it is easier (and lazy!) to group candidates in with the platform of the party with which they associate, and at least get an idea of where they stand. That is very difficult to do at the local level. The issues are quite specific and many don’t even qualify as “regional” issues. Things like “what to do with the empty lot on the corner of Armistead & Mercury” don’t quite rise to the level of Democrat vs Republican planks. A participant in local politics really has to engage in difficult decisions where there is rarely a clear-cut stand based on principle.
As such, it is difficult to become engaged as a voter. It is easy to become disinterested and say “I don’t care what happens to that lot. I just want kids to stop doing drugs near my house.” Thinking about rezoning ordinances is enough to push the fledgling political activist to look to loftier goals of ending world hunger, ending a war or funding the space program. These things are worthy endeavors, and one should answer the calling to these goals. But we must not neglect the opportunities in our own backyard to feed the hungry child, or to bring justice to a wronged person, or to encourage scientific wonder in the mind of a single child.
That’s what local politics does. It forces us to roll up our sleeves and get into the tricky details of ordinances and neighbors. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. A case can be made that in this global economy in which we live, all are our neighbors. But those who live across the street have always been in the definition of neighbors. So what *should* be done with that closed down daycare at the end of the street? I used to think that environmentalists were going over the top for the ill of our society. That might be true on a national level. However, when considering the wetlands two blocks away from my house, and seeing how the new failed development further upstream has caused flooding issues for a 70-year old neighborhood, well, maybe God made a sponge for a reason.
These are real issues that should be given serious consideration. Raising property taxes to cover city deficits causes a very real impact on my family budget. But by the same token, reducing city services due to insolvency causes a very real impact on my family as well. These are tough issues ahead of us. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said “All politics is local.” This is still true, 30 years later.
I started praying for Hampton a few years ago, and I am amazed at how quickly God placed a love in my heart for this city. My heart goes out to those in the city who are hurting, those who require justice, those who struggle to make ends meet. I believe God has charged government with the responsibility to make righteous laws, and to do justly and love mercy. I want to see my city reflect God’s righteousness in its actions. I plan on voting for those I believe will faithfully carry out this charge. I hope you do the same.