No cause for concern

Valley Times-News, The (Lanett, AL) – Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Author: Cy Wood, Publisher Editor


The outcome of every election is determined by turnout. Who votes is more important than how they vote, because how they vote is determined by who's voting.


This fall billions of dollars have been spent on convincing people how they should vote. The really smart political money, though, will be invested in determining who votes.


In hotly contested races for elected office, the core issues of the campaign are often difficult to determine. Collegiate hijinks can become a campaign issue. Constitutional literacy can become a campaign issue.


All ballot issues don't revolve around positions, however, and this fall's election ballot includes a very important local issue, the renewal of the two-mill tax dedicated to Chambers County libraries.


With the election less than a week away, I've yet to hear a single negative word about the library tax renewal. Even political candidates are throwing their support to the library tax. It's hard to imagine a tax issue on any ballot that might have political coattails, but perhaps the library tax will be an exception.


Naturally, I am concerned. As a longstanding and vocal admirer of the local library, this will be my third library tax campaign. The first two were successful, and every indication is that this one will be as well.


Naturally, I am concerned. I'm concerned because there's always a chance the ballot issue equivalent of the Bradley effect could sink the library proposal.


You know the Bradley effect. It harkens back to a Los Angeles mayoral election in which polls showed the black candidate with what looked like a solid lead. Come election day he lost. The experts concluded that white people, when they were polled, didn't want the pollster to think they might be racist, so they voiced support for the black candidate, but when it came time to vote, they voted differently.


The way they voted didn't necessarily have anything to do with the ethnicity of the candidates, but the way they responded to the polling did.


Just like the voters in LA who didn't want to appear to be racially motivated in their political choices, it's conceivable there are people who will vote against the library tax but they don't want to appear to be against the library.


Would that it were that simple to separate the concept of the library from the tax that supports it. Chambers County has a first-class library system. The local library is a shining star among this community's institutions. It is professionally administered, sensitive to community standards, responsive to community needs and always looking for ways it can expand its services and widen its impact on the community. Proactive is an overworked (and underemployed) word, but it fits the local library. The library doesn't wait until a need is articulated at the local level or a trend is established in library circles. Instead, it's a pacesetter, an organization that is out front in offering local residents services and amenities that transcend what would normally be expected of a small-town library



The library is so good, in fact, that supporters might grow complacent. They might think that the library does such a good job that everyone knows it and there's no way any reasonably intelligent person would vote to deny the library its small tax request.


Remember that time-worn saying about all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing? That's why I'm always concerned about the library and its funding. Chambers County has a long ballot next Tuesday, and the library tax is literally the last item on the ballot. Voters must wade through the governor's race, legislative contests, statewide offices, county commission races, judicial positions and no less than four statewide amendments before getting to the library proposal. Voters could get exhausted before they get to the end of the ballot.


Naturally, I am concerned. How disappointing it would be if the library proposal should fail just because too many supporters of the measure decided their one vote wouldn't matter and they didn't take the time to get to the library question on the ballot.


Earlier we mentioned the importance of turnout in elections. There's another axiom about elections, particularly tax elections, that is a matter of concern. In every election where there's a tax issue on the ballot, the naysayers will vote. The naysayers are people who vote nay against any tax issue. It doesn't matter what the tax issue is about, they are against it. Not only are they against everything, they make it a point to always vote when there's such an issue on the ballot.


Fortunately, for the continuing advancement of civilization, the naysayers are a small segment of the electorate. But every informed, enlightened citizen who supports the library tax but fails to vote for its renewal is magnifying the impact of the naysayer vote.


I hope you vote yes. The library tax renewal is important to our local libraries remaining the preeminent institutions they have become. Each Chambers County voter has an opportunity to be a part of maintaining the high standards for which our libraries are widely known. Most people know a bargain when they see it, but it's not often one is spotted on the ballot. The library tax is just that — a real bargain for Chambers County.