Make sure to participate in your local elections | SummitDaily.com
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Make sure to participate in your local elections

Eartha Steward
Special to the Daily

Dear Eartha,

I’ve been watching the presidential election process, and it’s so chaotic! It makes me feel like I don’t want to vote. I know there are local municipal elections happening April 5. What should I do?

Nancy,

Breckenridge

Here in the Steward household, Nancy, we always advocate for voting for your policy makers and representatives at all levels of government. Despite feeling disconnected or disenfranchised at the federal level, local elections can have a much more impactful and immediately apparent outcome. Residents who take part in local elections have a direct impact on the types of decisions that are made in the community you live in!

I once saw Auden Schendler speak at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge about his experience with Aspen Skiing Company as vice president of sustainability. He was discussing how difficult it was to change policies at the staff level, even when it makes sense to do so. After years of struggling to “green” the ski area and work with the local community to improve their environmental and energy standards, he and his crew of sustainability advocates decided they had better start going to the decision-makers if they wanted to see change happen. He went even further: Elect the decision-makers you want, so they can make the changes you need. Work within the system to the extent you can and then change the system. That year, they helped elect an environmentally-supportive candidate to the local energy co-op’s board of directors, and the policy dominos started to fall.

So when it comes to voting, the Stewards say do it. But do it after educating yourself on the issues, so that you may fill out your ballot from an informed position and make the best choices for your community. Avoid media sensation at the national level, and focus on the issues facing you and your neighbors. Ask someone you respect and trust for their opinion, or form a neighborhood group where you can talk about issues. Get out and meet your candidates either at a forum or a meet-n-greet event. The good thing about local elections is that the candidates (usually) are your neighbors, too! Finally, ask a local organization that aligns with your passion and interest area for their input on local issues. Many can’t or won’t endorse a specific candidate (some do) but will weigh in on the platforms that affect their mission. They can even facilitate forums for discussing specific topics.

For example, the Breckenridge Tourism Office hosted a live candidate forum on Wednesday, March 16. They asked candidates about parking, transportation and sustainability issues. Summit Realtors did the same on March 15. Organizations like the High Country Conservation Center (HC3) also submit questionnaires to candidates on issues related to their mission. HC3 recently asked Breckenridge and Frisco mayoral and town council candidates to weigh in on local sustainability issues. We asked all candidates to prioritize key local issues, including sustainability, and what personal actions they take to be good stewards of our mountain environment. We also asked if there was a sustainability issue that they would advocate for if they were elected.

Finally, we asked a question specific to each town.

We asked the Frisco candidates if they would support a bag fee similar to the one adopted in Breck a couple years ago. Bag fees typically reduce plastic bag use at large retailers (like grocery stores) by more than 80 percent!

And we asked Breck candidates if they would support adoption of a Pay-as-You-Throw waste program for residents. Pay-as-You-Throw programs are more equitable and have been shown to double recycling rates. The concept is the more waste you produce, the more you pay. The more you recycle, the more you save.

You can view candidates’ responses at highcountryconservation.org.

So, Nancy, even as the national circus continues to deliver on entertainment value, there are very real, very local and very eminent mail-in ballot elections happening right here in Summit County on April 5. For more information on how to ensure your voter registration is current or to register, contact the town clerk in your community and be sure to mail in your ballot.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable food, waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at eartha@highcountryconservation.org.


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