Slusher: Making a direct connection with would-be local leaders

With their impact on your property taxes and leadership in your community, local elections can be the most direct opportunity for you to shape your schools and your quality of life. Yet, too often, we're all distracted by the glare of state and national issues, so that when it comes time to select our town and school leaders, we don't feel as qualified or as committed as we would like.

The Daily Herald strives to bridge some of this attention gap with diverse coverage of local races, issues and candidates that starts months before Election Day. It involves engagement with candidates that can tell you much about how capable - or how interested - they are.

You've already seen some of our stories, as filing deadlines have passed for candidates to declare themselves for local office. As the days march ever closer to the April 4 election, you're sure to see many more.

One additional avenue for helping you better get to know your candidates - and, candidates, for helping you better engage with your constituents - is the questionnaire we post online. It's an unfiltered communication that serves as the basis for much of our coverage as well as providing additional background our editorial board uses in making endorsements.

Our work developing this tool is complicated by many factors, not the least of which is the that there is no central clearinghouse for most petition filings, requiring us to coordinate with scores of diverse entities to identify all the candidates. That identification, though, is the easy part. The greater challenge can be connecting with each of hundreds of candidates so that we can get their information to you. This starts with a complex and coordinated effort to track down every candidate's email address.

Many of us on our end would love to see a state law requiring candidates to provide an email address for their campaigns so citizens and the press can stay in touch with their would-be leaders. Community leadership, after all, is all about communication and a simple email address seems in everyone's interest.

But absent such a requirement, we're left to use whatever means we can think of to track down candidates and provide them the questionnaire that helps them to connect with you and you to connect with them. We've already managed to reach some and we'll succeed pretty well at getting in touch with most in upcoming days. But for such an important duty, "most" is not acceptable. We want to provide information about them all.

So, voters and candidates alike, you'll soon start seeing solicitations on Page 3 and elsewhere asking to help us make contact. If you are a candidate who hasn't heard from us by now, or if you know one, please take a moment to email us at with your name, office and contact information.

When campaigns start getting heated in just a few weeks, one way you'll know how serious candidates take their responsibility is by the attention they give to their answers - and by whether they provided answers at all. You may be sure when the questionnaires appear on our website, we'll have done all we could to provide them - and you - the forum.

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