Your township needs your voice
By: From Greg Hull, Silver Creek Township Supervisor, Lake County News Chronicle
The room was smoky from both the oil heater and tobacco users. The benches were rough and uneven, much like the floor of the old building. At a table along one wall sat three men, facing the crowd. My Dad pointed to a spot along one wall and told me to sit, and behave. As I sat and looked around, I realized I recognized many of the adults there. The mechanic from up the road, my school bus driver, a neighbor, and one of the teachers from the country school. It was my first township meeting.
Memory has faded sufficiently to erase, my recollection of the issue that brought us to the old Town Hall that night. I do remember heated debate along with some calm voices. The supervisors eventually voted, and my dad seemed satisfied with their decision.
What I didn’t know then was that I was also seeing governance the way our state forefathers had intended it – local government making decisions about local issues by engaging constituents in the process.
Local Township Boards deal with many issues – roads and bridges, buildings and zoning, fire protection, cemeteries, and the creation special districts within their boundaries created for special needs, such as sewage treatment. They have the authority to levy property taxes, create regulations, and address property access issues. But the voters have the right to approve the tax levy. They can weigh in on every issue the Board addresses. Meetings are open, and can be attended by all.
In a day when the mindset for government seems to be that the government furthest from the people is the best (think Washington or St Paul) perhaps we need to return to the old idea that the government that is closest to the people it serves is the best.
The June Storm of 2012 is a great example. When roads were washed out and over topped by the 10” of rainfall that hit in a short time, we didn’t need to wait for help from St Paul or Washington. Even before the rain stopped, town board members were out putting up barriers and warning flags in places where the roads were dangerous. Men, machines and materials were organized to begin working to make sure people who were trapped in their homes due to washouts were rescued, and those who couldn’t get back to their homes could. Because tax-payer money had been managed well and escrowed, funds were available to hire the extra contractors and workers needed. It was local government working the way it was intended – to serve local folks.
Local government serving the local people. It’s such a profound idea, and it has worked well through the decades. It’s a Beautiful thing to see. Township elections and annual meetings are held this year on Tuesday, March 12. This is your chance to have a voice on issues and concerns. This is your chance to be heard by the people who live nearby, and represent you. This is your chance to be a part of democracy the way it was intended.
Hope to see you there.