Editorial: Voters must blunt special interests' influence in local elections

  • Voters check in with election judges to cast ballots in local municipal and school board elections.

      Voters check in with election judges to cast ballots in local municipal and school board elections. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

In Palatine Township Elementary District 15 on Election Day, the voters threw out the incumbents, electing a slate that had been openly supported by the local Republican organization.

Meanwhile, in Woodland Elementary District 50 based in Gurnee, voters threw out the incumbents, electing a collection of candidates that had largely been supported by the local teachers union.

The elections in those districts were more complicated than that. There was considerable public ire in District 15 related to a controversial 10-year teacher contract and an unpopular referendum, and the incumbents got some special interest support themselves from the unions, so it's hard to say how much of the outcome to lay at the feet of the GOP. There was similar shading in District 50, where finances had forced school cuts, so who knows how much influence the union activity had?

But no matter the case, it's clear that to some degree at least, a political party had a hand in things in District 15 and a public employee union had one in District 50.

Is this what we want, our local elections to fall prey to partisan politics and special interests? Do we want the suburbs to follow the same sorry formula that has turned state government finances into an embarrassing, mismanaged disaster?

More troubling, is this what our local elections already are becoming? Particularly our school board races? May it already be too late to do much about it?

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Years ago, before any of us were born, no doubt, township government was given over to the political parties. The townships are controlled by them. Some might even argue that that's all townships really are, political fiefdoms to provide sustenance for the local party organizations.

Townships have been run by political parties for so long now that none of us even bothers to question it. We all just view it as the way it is.

But if that's so, is that what we want for the rest of our local governments? Do we want them to become miniature versions of Chicago and its corruption, our interests resting in the hands of party organizations and special interests whose priorities are their own well-being?

We can bemoan this. In fact, we regularly do bemoan this. But the answer doesn't lie in complaining about it. The answer lies in doing something about it.

The more apathetic we as voters are about local politics and local government, the lower our voter turnout, the less informed we are when we actually do turn out, the more license we grant to political parties and special interests that do get involved.

Make no mistake. The parties and the special interests will get involved.

The question is: Will we?

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