Students should be more invested in local government


Sean McMenemy

“VOTE” by Sean McMenemy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aiden Keenan, Photo Editor

Let’s establish one thing up front: talking about politics is not normally a fun subject. People tend to have their own preconceived ideas about abortion, the economy, immigration and other partisan conflict areas. While emotions surrounding these topics may prevent effective dialogue, a focus on the positive power of local policy brings to light the urgency of setting these topics aside for a moment. While most people may have a general idea of what is going on on a national level, few are aware of the implications and actions of local government. 

Take University Heights, for example. John Carroll University students that are eligible to vote and either live on campus or at a house within the University Heights borders are able to register to vote in this precinct. Whether you personally think it is better to vote in your home district or here is entirely your prerogative, but one sentiment remains strong: you must vote. In fact, residents have until Oct.3 to register for the elections coming up in November. 

University Heights is holding elections for their mayor and three city council seats. Seven people are running for those three council seats and there are currently four mayoral candidates, the two frontrunners being the sitting Mayor, Michael Dylan Brennan, and a current member of City Council and chair of the Building and Housing Committee, Barbara Blankfeld. Phillip Atkin and Ken Simmons are also on the ballot. A Mayor’s term in UH is four years; current first-year JCU students will be voting in an election that will impact them for their whole JCU tenure.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reports that only 3,152 people voted in the most recent UH Mayoral election. Michael Brennan won this race by only 50 votes. If every JCU student voted for one specific eligible student, they could have shifted the election. JCU could theoretically elect our students to local government, if students registered to vote. A public forum for the candidates will be held on Thursday, Sep. 30, and is open to the public via Zoom at 7:00 p.m. 

This year, there is a special election for the federal House seat in OH-11; Shontel Brown (D) and Laverne Gore (R) are running against one another to fill the seat left vacant back in March by Marcia Fudge when she was confirmed to the role of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Brown is predicted to win in the district that has not elected a Republican since 1980. 

Some may wonder, of course, why they should care about local government when there are larger national issues at stake. Simply, the efforts of local governments should not go entirely by the wayside — when people only focus on the hot-topic national issues, they lose sight of what is going on directly around them. They become jaded and resent the government, one that does more than you may expect — especially at the local level. Don’t get me wrong though, I do not think that all governments are doing all they can. I will critique governmental officials when necessary and in the appropriate capacity, but all is not lost. 

Again, turning to UH as an example: just a few years ago, the Walter Stinson Community Park was completed behind City Hall. This beautiful park contains a couple of playgrounds, a baseball field, a wildflower garden and more. Less than two miles from campus, this beautiful park goes unnoticed by many students. Coming up on Oct. 10, the University Heights Fall Fest will feature different artisans, artists and vendors in the park. Over the summer, weekly free concerts were held. UH residents can also visit our public pool at Purvis Park on Cedar Road. While the federal or state governments can focus on large legislative efforts, day-to-day events and amenities are the results of hard work from local governments. 

The park and the events would not have been possible without the power of local government. And, while I can recognize benefits of the local government, I also have my list of issues that I want more attention devoted to. Highest among them is my desire to see a stronger connection between the University and the City. Interestingly enough, yes, University Heights is technically a city by definition. While national issues are important, you have the potential to make a large impact on your local community, simply by ensuring your registration with the Ohio Secretary of State or becoming a part of your local community. 

Learn more about the mayoral candidates, engage with the resources in the community and let your voice be heard. Do not let local government go unnoticed, doing so will turn you away from public policy and has the potential to, in turn, harm the community around you. I urge you to register to vote in UH or your family home, engage with your community members and make a difference for yourself and your fellow students.