The paving of Chickasaw County Road 308 through Houlka provides perspective about the importance of dealing with the usual issues of government even when a far-away war distracts attention and places men and women from home at risk.
The State Aid Road Program, one of the most prized state-to-local funding formulas, will invest $800,000 in paving Road 308, taking “hundreds … out of the dust,” in the words of one local official.
The three-mile-long project won't be the first paved road in or near the historic Chickasaw County town, but it becomes the most important construction project in the world for residents who will receive the most immediate benefit. Road 308, like hundreds of similar roads throughout Northeast Mississippi and the rest of the state is the embodiment of the old saying, “All politics is local.”
The truth in that never is more apparent than in an election year, when Mississippians choose everyone from the governor on down. The “down ticket” offices, not surprisingly, often attract the greater attention because those officials – court clerks, tax collectors and assessors, supervisors, sheriffs, constables, justice court judges, coroners and surveyors – more often come face to face with citizens and taxpayers than any governor or other statewide official. It is not unheard of for local races to attract more votes than the gubernatorial races that top the tickets in the primaries and in the general election.
Government services, mostly at the loca level, form the substance of campaign issues.
Every highway and road becomes immediate and personal.
Every education issue boils down to how it affects the children known to individual voters.
Economic development policies become known in jobs lost or jobs secured in the private sector, at least in part by government initiative.
Taxes are too high or too low based on voters' perceptions of what's returned in programs and infrastructure.
Candidates this year may be tempted to run on a platform filled with the rhetoric of patriotism and support for men and women in uniform, but that is not enough. County offices deal with the routines and necessities of life. Local government during past wars upheld its part of citizenship by continuing service and function even as events beyond local and state control dominated the background of everyday life.
The politicians of 2003 need the perspective of history and a firm commitment to the practical functions of the office sought.
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