by BRUCE BOTELHO – Since statehood, Alaska has required that candidates for local public office be elected on a non-partisan basis. Some have concluded that this requirement somehow prohibits political parties from becoming engaged in local races. There is no such prohibition and, in fact, there are ample reasons for active participation.
All politics is local
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s quip that “all politics is local” was aimed at explaining that races for Congress are not decided on lofty national issues, but on those that are on the minds of local citizens—at the “retail level”. Yet his observation holds another truth: the government that most affects the daily lives of citizens and the one over which they exercise the most control is found at the local level, in municipal councils and assemblies.
And it is in the cauldron of local politics that most state leaders have gained their experience–and, indeed, the recognition that has permitted them to ascend to higher office. (Bill Walker, Byron Mallott and Dennis Egan all began their political careers in local government, becoming mayors of their respective communities.)
Politics is about values
We, as Democrats, have an obligation to find and support candidates who share our values and are prepared to fight for them at every level of government. Among these values are transparency and openness in government, respect for the fundamental dignity of all persons, the importance of strong public educational institutions, and support for social and economic infrastructure that allow businesses to thrive and workers meaningful employment.
As important as it is to field qualified candidates for state house and senate around the state, our work must begin in developing that leadership in our district by encouraging active engagement at the municipal level: assembly, board of education, planning commission and the numerous other citizen boards that have important missions in themselves, but also are fertile training grounds for the generations who will lead our state in the years to come.
Bruce Botelho served as Juneau mayor between 1988 and 1991 and again between 2003 and 2012. Opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent official positions of TongassDemocrats.com or the Tongass Democrats.