In today’s political climate, being a middle-age, white male, in a dominant role on many local boards, appears to be a problem in need of a solution for some progressives in our local communities.
Today’s complaint against the status quo comes in the form of a column in the Rockford Register Star entitled, “Election 2013: A real mix of America on Boone’s April ballot.”
Apparently, a diverse group of candidates in Boone County are throwing their hats in the ring in the hope of changing the traditional, older, white, male-dominated boards.
Women, Latinos, African-Americans and younger candidates are running in the April 9 election. If elected, these groups would represent a stark change from the white, male-dominated boards.
According to Kris Keiper, CEO of the Young Women’s Christian Association,
“There is such a wave of dissatisfaction that’s been happening within all levels of government that you are seeing new people stepping out of their box and start lending that voice,”
These are, of course, underrepresented groups that say they are ready to create government in their own image. A government that is more representative of the population. Well, where have you been for the last twenty years or so?
What used to be high on the list of priorities for a successful candidate was experience and knowledge of the issues that come before the boards to which they are elected, regardless of the color of one’s skin, their age or their gender.
Now, it’s more expedient and politically correct simply to blame one’s current situation in life on the so-called good-old-boys for the lack of progress made by “take-your-pick” of any underrepresented group.
So, the solution appears to be that only diverse groups can understand what programs best redistribute the monies that many seek from the government at all levels.
Some of the current politically aware old white, male-dominated board members obtained their knowledge of the workings of government by attending meetings and volunteering to do the work for years on committees and subcommittees as community representatives.
Many of these current elected officials and volunteers worked long hard hours and learned the ropes with on the job training before “throwing their hat in the ring” rather than seek election because of physical traits having nothing to do with the position they sought.
Hispanics account for one-third of Belvidere’s population, but no Latinos serve on the City Council or township boards. Gloria said residents are hesitant to run; they are unaware of how local government works and how they could change it.
A suggestion to these new unaware prospective candidates – get involved at the committee level, gain knowledge of how the system works or doesn’t work, then study to comprehend some of the complexities of the law governing the board and its finances, before jumping into the fray.
It’s vital to have fresh blood is pumped continually into local government. Kieper said women, especially those of color, must be encouraged to seek office. Otherwise, longtime elected officials may be unaware of how their changing community thinks.
The boards “are very white, and our communities are not that white anymore. My perception of what needs to be done will be different than a community of color,” Kieper said.
What is the obsession with this group-mentality in our society, which continually wants to divide people into groups driven by the philosophy that only a person from this or that underrepresented group can truly understand the problems of the respective group.
We are all Americans, not to be separated into this or that group. We need to work together to solve our problems, without suspicion of the other, a suspicion purposely created by those who wish to keep us apart – because divided we fail.
The reasoning of those who wish to separate Americans into this hyphenated-group or that hyphenated-group must be suspect. It is a strategy to keep us continually divided, so that those who divide us, create a new role for themselves.
Voters need to be informed about the candidate’s position, the candidate’s knowledge of the issues and their experience with respect to complex issues of finance and law concerning the office to which they aspire.
It would be a travesty of our democratic republic, leading to failure in ever respect, if candidates were elected simply because they represent diversity.