Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apathy: Arizona's real third party

...and unfortunately for Arizona, it may have more adherents than any of the more formally organized political parties.  In a reality where most people by necessity have to focus on day-to-day "trivialities" like keeping a roof over their heads and finding adequate health care for their families, most don't have the available time and energy for public service.

A week-and-a-half ago, I wrote a post detailing how a number of fire district boards in Maricopa County had their elections cancelled due to a lack of competition or a lack of candidates.  Out of 17 boards on the ballot this year, 11 saw their elections cancelled.  Two districts had no candidates at all, while five of the others had a few candidates, but an insufficient number to fill out the board.  Those seats will be declared vacant and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will appoint people to fill them (I think)

In addition, the elections for two seats on the Maricopa County Special Health Care District (aka - board of directors of the Maricopa Medical Center and the county health clinics) were cancelled because there is only one candidate for each seat.

Now, the Arizona Republic has published a story highlighting how more than half of all school board races in the county have been cancelled for the same reason.

From the article -
School-board elections were canceled in 32 of the 57 Maricopa County school districts because dozens of races had no candidates or competition for open seats.

For districts, the move means about $547,000 in savings at a time when schools are counting every penny. But the lack of interest in board service reflects a trend across the state.

Once again, most school-board candidates in the Valley have been appointed, rather than elected in November.
According to the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools' website, as a result of the lack of interest, 54 school board candidates will skip the election and be appointed to the positions they seek, while 12 other seats will be declared vacant and be appointed by the Superintendent at a later date.

Note: a complete list of school board candidates is here.

I actually understand the dearth of candidates for some of the fire boards.  Many of them cover the odd parcels of land within Maricopa County that are surrounded by cities but aren't actually incorporated into any of them.  They generally don't have many people in them,  much less people who are interested in a very low-profile elected office.

School boards, however, affect everyone.

Right now, there is a lot of focus on Arizona's malfunctioning education system and a lot of interest in blaming teachers and adminstrators and students and parents for the problems.  Personally, I blame a majority caucus in the state legislature that is more interested in siphoning public money into corporate coffers than in doing their real jobs, but I digress...

What there isn't enough of is people interested in actually working to fix the problems.

School board members put in a lot of time and effort and take a lot of criticism from people because regardless of what they do, they tick off a significant number of people.

It's the kind of job that receives no pay and little thanks, and thanks to the legislature, insufficient resources to do the job well or even adequately.

And when people grow ever more frustrated with what seems to be an unwinnable fight (improving schools in their neighborhoods and state), more will just throw up their hands in frustration and stop caring.

Look for a growing number of cancelled school board elections in each successive election cycle.


Richard said...

What a shame. Or a disgrace.

In the next election, you should post to try to recruit candidates for school boards and these other boards.

Or just go down to the Mill Avenue Starbucks...

Richard said...

Speaking of Arizona third parties, the Pinal County Greens have endorsed Rodney Glassman and Terry Goddard.