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By Rosemary Neill
In keeping with its vision of an engaged and informed citizenry, the El Paso Community First Coalition is hosting two issue-oriented public forums for candidates for El Paso City Council.
The forum for the District 5 and District 6 seats will be on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m. at El Paso Community College Valle Verde Arts, Science and Technology Auditorium AST 150, 919 Hunter Drive. The forum for the District 1 and District 8 seats will be on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Gymnasium, 602 S. Oregon (enter on Father Rahm Street).
Tuesday, Nov. 8, is our next municipal election day. Along with filling these four seats, there are three propositions to approve or reject the issuance of general obligation bonds totaling $272.5 million.
This is an important election for several reasons. First, it is the initial election cycle in newly re-drawn districts. Second, on this ballot voters in the city of El Paso are asked to consider the issuance of more debt. The largest proposal is for issuing $246.5 million in bonds for street improvements.
Much has been written in the past year about the state of our democracy and the integrity of our voting processes. These are issues we will be wrestling with for some time to come.
Many reasons are given for our low rate of electoral participation. Some believe that their votes don’t matter and the current controversies over voting integrity may reinforce that distrust.
The increase in the cost of running for office can discourage otherwise eligible individuals from offering their talents to our community.
Finally, candidates increasingly find it easier to communicate with their prospective constituents via direct mail and social media over the perceived risks of participating in a public dialogue.
Our electoral process is diffused with duties assigned to federal, state, and local authorities. Despite the confusion caused by these dispersed responsibilities, our system works when everyone fulfills their duties. This begins with eligible citizens who register and vote.
Voters must pay attention to the promises made by candidates and ask questions if a promise seems too good to be true or is confusing. Candidates have a duty to explain their campaign promises and how any pledges will be paid for. The media can help untangle some of the issues raised and frame them for better understanding. And civic organizations like the CFC can offer the opportunity to meet candidates directly and hear about their vision for their district.
Leadership matters, so it is important to know as much as possible about all candidates for public office. The individuals elected in this cycle will face many challenges including how to promote economic growth, how to balance current expenditures within a framework of limited resources, and how to address the demand for good, basic public services.
The El Paso Community First Coalition fulfills its civic mission to improve the social, economic, and political conditions of our community through various means including hosting these forums. We encourage other groups and organizations to do the same.
Rosemary Neill is a member of El Paso Community First Coalition.