The eloquence of voters

Tom Henry, Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana
Tom Henry, Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Mayor Tom Henry’s election Tuesday wasn’t quite a landslide. But he won over Republican Mitch Harper by a comfortable margin. I was pleased by the outcome but not surprised.

Lots of good things have been happening under Tom’s leadership. I don’t mean just the exciting, visible stuff in the downtown. But work crews have been busy all summer and fall throughout the neighborhoods. That includes mine. The progress shows.

Voters here in Fort Wayne, while re-electing a Democratic mayor, managed to continue to elect a mostly Republican council. I don’t believe it’s because we like divided government. The main issue is that some years back, the city annexed growing suburban neighborhoods. That boosted the city’s tax base. It also brought in thousands of Republican voters. For Democrats, that proved to be a problem.

When I served on The Journal Gazette’s editorial board, I had the privilege of interviewing, I’d guess, hundreds of candidates for public office. To be sure, I’ve been retired for 15 years. But I still remember a few of the candidates who ran in Tuesday’s city election.

I got to know Mayor Henry when he represented his district on the City Council. In more recent years, I joined him and other friends to drive to Indianapolis to a Colts football game. I recall the Colts won.

The great thing about elections is simply this: They affirm our abiding faith in democratic government. People simply believe that their vote counts.

I’d like to think that the big group of non-voters still believes in our system. (More than half didn’t show, as always on an “off-year” election) You can be sure that when the presidential election rolls around in two years, they’ll be at the polls to cast their vote.

I wish every citizen would take the time to inform him or herself about the issues. Part of such an education should include reading one’s local paper’s editorials and opinion columns. I realize that Fort Wayne remains one of the few cities in the country with two, competing newspapers.

Even you live in a one-newspaper town, you can also get a variety of opinion through letters to the editor in your newspaper and the columnists. Often at election time, TV news shows will feature various candidates. Then groups such as the League of Women Voters often conduct public debates among the candidates.

My newspaper regularly offers extra space to letter writers around election time. We even invited readers to sit in on candidate interviews.

After the votes are counted, a citizen can find the results quite an education. What do people expect? How are the incumbents doing their job? What new faces would bring new ideas? Here’s another chance to become engaged in your neighborhood, in your community.

For my part, I just enjoy visiting with other voters in line and with those working the polls. It’s the only time of year I meet some neighbors. I leave the polls feeling good about voting and fortunate to live in such an open, free country.

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