I am a politically engaged, moderate, young voter and really excited to vote for the first time this November. I am underwhelmed by the options for president and am not sure if I can confidently vote for either candidate. National politics are getting more partisan and more polarizing by the day and I think it is a major reason why we see such low turnout from younger voters. I think having to choose between two extremes has disaffected a lot of my generation, who often just want to see real change in our everyday lives.
Instead of focusing on the intensely politicized national elections, I believe we should turn our attention to the areas of government that more directly affect us – namely, local government. On a purely statistical basis, the most active voters are older, which is doubly true for local government elections. As a demographic, I think that the younger voters forget, or are even ignorant, of how crucial local government is. While these bodies are responsible for a broad range of services, the most important, in my opinion are these: economic and community development.
This brings me to a further point: coronavirus. Phoenix is already the fifth largest and fastest growing city in the country. With a population of 1.66 million, the allocation of public funds is ever important in our attempts to alleviate the crisis (both economically and socially). Small businesses, which were impacted deeply by the pandemic, are especially in need. While the federal government aids, of course, it is ultimately up to local politicians to fix our local economic crises, and to make sure that the communities most in need aren’t forgotten. This means we need effective and rational decision-making in our local government. We need trusted leaders, backed by experience, to weather the storm.
And on leadership — let’s focus on the realists. When I cast my ballot in the upcoming elections, I’ll be voting for the candidates who I know have a history of doing good for my community. An able leader experienced with the intricacies of passing legislation is more valuable to me than an idealistic, naive, and ineffective candidate.
Yes, we need people with experience, that is certain. But I think we also need people who work with everyone, Republican or Democrat. I don’t care about the party. I want my voice to be heard, but even more so I want leaders who will put the labels aside and actually talk to each other and solve these problems. How DO we get through a pandemic? How DO we get our lives back to normal? How DO we help people who have lost their jobs and businesses? I’m worried about the impact of coronavirus on my family members, my classmates, and the local businesses that I’ve had the pleasure of patronizing. I’m worried about my community, first and foremost.
So I’ve had some time to think about what all this fighting accomplishes when we are all affected. I see a lot of blaming and finger pointing, but no real solutions. I want our politicians to work together and actually solve the problems we are facing, instead of just voting along party lines. The fact that I see more bipartisanship in my local government gives me hope that American democracy isn’t dead.
A clear example, in my opinion, is state Senator Kate Brophy McGee. I’m proud to call North Central Phoenix my home. I am, after all, a lifelong resident. I have seen the great leaps and strides that my community has made in such a short time. In all of this, Kate has lent a helping hand. In the Madison School District, where I was a student for eight years, and where my 12-year-old sister attends, my former teachers were able to enjoy a 20% pay raise. Proposition 301, which provides $670 million to K-12 education regularly, helped to revamp school programs and facilities there, too. These policies were emphatically supported, sponsored, and nurtured by Kate. Even further in my scholastic career, I see the effects of Kate’s policies. Mental health is especially important to my generation right now, with everything going on in the world. Jake’s Law, which has expanded access to behavioral health services in schools especially, established an $8 million fund for those in need of help with insurance. Now, my classmates can get the help they need without worry. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who has had the safety of her constituents more in mind than Kate.
In my opinion, and I think in the opinion of most rational voters, I like to see my vote being used effectively by effective politicians. We need our politicians to solve problems instead of arguing. I get that people dislike President Trump. I also hear people say that the Democrats are too liberal. What I will be looking at is who will work on problems that directly affect me and my friends, and actually get things done. That is who I am going to vote for.
Pablo Torres-Lopez is a resident of Legislative District 28.