2019 municipal election reminds us of the importance of local politics


Infographic by Kaela Dockray ’20

Municipal elections may not garner as much attention as those at a national scale, but participation is just as, if not more so, important.

Kaela Dockray '20, Paper News Editor

There is no doubt that next year’s presidential election will be monumental. For many, November of 2020 will serve either as a testament to the resilience of our democracy or an indication of the failures of our electoral system. Anyone remotely interested in the future of our nation will take the measures necessary to ensure they are registered to vote. However, we must also remember that the presidential election is still over a year away. 

In less than a month from now, there is another election that could be equally important for Westport residents. On Nov. 5, our town’s municipal elections will take place, determining who will compose our Board of Education, RTM, Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Finance. This might seem minuscule given the chaos of today’s national political climate, but by overlooking our local election, we are missing out on the opportunity to have a say on issues that impact our community in a very real, tangible way. 

A local board of education, for instance, has one of the most important responsibilities in our society: to oversee our public schools, a central tenent to any American community. As Westport’s Board of Education grapples with issues such as redistricting and repairing Coleytown Middle School in the aftermath of its closing, we are able to appreciate the pivotal role the BOE plays in shaping our lives as members of Westports’ Public School system. 

Similarly, national media coverage sheds light on the impact of our town’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The Commission has consistently resisted attempts to increase Westport’s affordable housing opportunities, often claiming that such initiatives damage the “character” of our town’s neighborhoods. If our community hopes to diversify and increase affordable housing options, we must look carefully at the composition of the Planning and Zoning Commission and vote in local elections to enact change. 

Further, local boards control many of the taxes Westport residents pay; they determine whether our streets get repaired, the quality of our water supply and which businesses will comprise our community. Voting is too often seen as something that occurs once every four years, but in reality, local elections take place each year and their implications can be long-lasting. 

The Founding Fathers intentionally designed a system of government that left many matters to the states, accounting for America’s diverse geography and populous. Being a part of our community comes with a certain set of civic responsibilities, among the most significant of which is the obligation to vote in local elections. 

Encouraging Westport residents to vote is important, but encouraging informed voting is critical. Take time to research the candidates running in the 2019 municipal election. Understanding their stance on key issues, their voting records and their plans for the future of the Westport community is how we truly and informatively exercise our right to vote. And while Nov. 5 may not come with media attention equal to that of the next presidential election, it will give us a chance to make a substantive difference on issues that affect our daily lives most.