To Make Government Work for You, Get Involved

Girard Bucello, Staff Writer

Montgomery County does a lot more than decide on snow days. The federal government might get more attention in the news, but just about everything we use every day is in some way affected by the state or the  county, from where we can park to the water that we can drink. It is difficult to imagine daily life without the county government’s involvement. Who would plow the roads, run the buses or provide emergency services?

All of the county’s decisions, however, are open to public debate. Don’t think you should pay more for a parking space? Say so. Unhappy that RideOn isn’t letting kids use their buses for free? Don’t argue with the bus driver; argue with the county council.

Most high school students – indeed, most adults – don’t concern themselves with how the county operates. After all, if a law isn’t on the books, it’s not a problem for county residents. Besides, there is little exciting about a county council meeting. What issue is really worth sitting through hours of discussion for just a few minutes to voice concerns?

The time for debate isn’t after an unpopular law is passed. As far as the county council is concerned, an issue is not concerning to high school students if no students show up to debate the issue.

While a lack of interest in politics is understandable, nothing is more dangerous than the uninformed voter. In Prince George’s County, the former County Executive Jack Johnson was arrested on federal corruption charges at the end of his second term. Illinois voters elected Rod Blagojevich twice before he was arrested for allegedly trying to take bids on former-Senator Barack Obama’s then-vacant Senate seat. And voters in the 2010 South Carolina Democratic Primary nominated Alvin Green, a completely inexperienced politician who was the subject of a felony investigation, largely due to the fact that his name was first on the ballot. According to Fox News, he “had no campaign headquarters, no party support, no contributions, no job, no computer and no cell phone.”

While the county has made an effort to educate future voters through a mandatory course on national, state and local governments, they fail to outline incidents like the ones above, and don’t encourage the future electorate to get involved. Are there any chapters of political groups at WJ, like Young Democrats or Young Republicans? Does the county make an effort to inform students about how to voice opinions in upcoming debates before the county council? Before the future voter can make an informed decision, there has to be information available.

The whole reason for a democracy is to have people vote based on what they want and need. It’s our future we’re voting for, and it is dangerous to show up at the poll without any knowledge of who is on the ballot. Not showing up at all is disastrous. As much as students may ignore the issues, they are not going away. If you want the government to work for you, the least you can do is tell them what you want.