OUR OPINION: Municipal elections hit close to home

By NEMS Daily Journal

olitics-weary citizens take heart: This election cycle is almost over. Of course, there’s always another one just around the corner, and 2014 will bring us mid-term congressional elections.
For now, however, three months of campaigning comes to an end Tuesday when municipal general elections are held in many Northeast Mississippi communities. In Lee County alone, five competitive mayor’s races and many alderman contests remain to be decided.
While the Tupelo mayor’s race has received the most attention, voters in Saltillo, Plantersville, Verona and Guntown will also select their mayors and aldermen, along with many other communities across Northeast Mississippi. Winnowing of the field, and in some cases the final outcome, occurred in the May party primaries, but in some municipalities, all candidates ran as independents, meaning the only vote is Tuesday.
Municipal government has a direct impact on multiple facets of the daily lives of residents within municipal boundaries. Streets, water and sewer, drainage, parks and recreation, public safety, neighborhood stability, building construction, business development and regulation, jobs growth, in some cases effective school board leadership and any number of other close-to-home aspects of life depend wholly or in part on healthy, well-functioning municipal government.
Given these realities, municipal elections ought to draw heavy participation. Unfortunately, they usually don’t.
The turnout in Tupelo’s May 7 primary was only about 3,800, a paltry 18 percent of the city’s registered voters. There was no competitive mayoral primary, but there were six contested City Council races. None of those remain to be decided Tuesday, but the mayor’s race between Republican Fred Pitts and Democrat Jason Shelton has been a spirited, highly competitive race right down to the wire. There is every reason for Tupelo voters to turn out to decide who will lead the city for the next four years.
The municipal election cycle, compared to county-state and federal elections, is mercifully short. All three voting rounds take place within a four-week period, and there’s less than three months between the qualifying deadline and the general election.
Still, it will be a relief to the candidates and voters when it’s over. If you live in a municipality with an election tomorrow, vote. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. You might not cast another vote for four years that could affect your everyday life as much.

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