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Letter: Local elections likely to be most divided in recent memory

To the Editor-

The local elections in Portage County for non-partisan local government seats this April 5th will be the most contested and contentious that our citizens have seen in a long time.

I’m not here to tell you HOW you should vote; I’m here to tell you THAT you should vote in these elections. And that you should do some systems-thinking about where the candidates stand, not merely three, four, or even five-word slogans. Get to know the candidates not by slogans, but by the content of the deep solutions that they offer to deep problems.

You may have noticed that our citizenry has become deeply polarized regarding all local governments and the decisions needing to be made—whether it’s how to protect public health, how U.S. History be taught in our public schools, or even how urban design and development should be done; this polarization is impacting HOW people will vote on April 5th.

Early on in the big dust-up over mask mandates to protect public health, I said publicly the COVID pandemic has kicked off an economic crisis nationwide that will be with our people for a long time, and be very difficult to solve. COVID did not create this crisis so much as exposed or revealed the deep economic problems that already were underway. The whole nation now faces a housing crisis, a hunger crisis, a workforce-building problem, and of course, a health care crisis which has seen the lifespan of the U.S. Population decline by nearly two full years Use scholar.google.com to find the peer-reviewed literature on all these crisis situations, not the partisan popular media.

All of these problems face the people of Portage County. And a citizenry who are fighting amongst ourselves and not getting to the nitty-gritty of solving these crisis-level problems will suffer rather than prevail. To help you discover the full scope of the problems ahead for our communities, simply use your favorite search engine and look up “Nouriel Roubini on the economic crisis of the 2020s.” Lots of reading and digesting for you there.

And you should not stop merely at casting your vote on April 5th. Serving in local government I’ve always said I welcome maximum public participation in our processes, and I’ll often dialogue with the people, at the meetings, about what is being discussed when public comments are made. Not only should you attend meetings and see what is being decided; you should also offer to serve on Commissions and Committees as a citizen member.

Find some mutual aid groups to help out, such as our network of food pantries in the Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership. Help Evergreen Community Initiatives in their service to homeless folks. If you have kids in the school district, see what volunteer opportunities there are so you can help the schools better serve your kids’ needs.

Wishing you prosperity and good health,
Bob Gifford,
District 10, Portage County Board of Supervisors

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