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Front Page » May 20, 2003 » Opinion » If you think it doesn't make a difference, think again
Published 3,987 days ago

If you think it doesn't make a difference, think again


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

As I sat in the Carbon School Board meeting last week, I realized how a difference in a few peoples behavior just a couple of months ago could have drastically changed the temperment of that meeting.

One of the main decisions the board had to make was to accept the negotiated agreement that the teachers association had already ratified. In that agreement, the district funded lane changes and increments, as well as a five percent raise, which they also extended to all full time school board employeees.

There were smiles all around as people talked about what a good agreement it was, and how, the district was one of only two in the state that allowed raises for their employees this coming year.

I'm not sure, but based on the finances of most of the public school districts in the state, Carbon may well have been one of the few that was able to extend the money for increments and lane changes as well.

The reason for this bright spot in the otherwise gray financial horizon of education in the state was the fact that Carbon School District was able to float a positive leeway vote for itself in early February, increasing property taxes around 10 percent for businesses and residences located in the county.

The vote on the issue was 1031 for and 1006 against; a difference of 25 votes. Only 15 percent of the registered voters in Carbon voted in the election.

Now I don't want to pick a bone with the school district about whether they should have had this money or not, or even if they really needed it. That's not the purpose of this editorial.

What I want to do is to point out that the what the majority of citizens in this county really wanted may very well have not been served in an "off year," late winter election, few seemed to know about, care about or even notice.

However, I can assure you, when preliminary tax evaluation notices go out of the county assessors office in the next month or so, I believe there are going to be some people who notice. That's because for the first time they will see the increase in their taxes because of that election. And I am sure some people will be up in arms about that increase, most of whom never bothered to vote.

Of course that is no ones fault but their own, particularly if they paid any attention to what went on during the presidential election of 2002, where the presidency of the United States was basically decided by as little as one vote per district.

But neither our local leeway election nor the most immediate presidential contest were the only time things have been decided because of only a few votes.

For instance, did you know that in 1776, when the country was first forming, a vote was taken in what was then the national assembly and English was picked as the national language over German by one measly vote.

That would seem to be a simple thing, not that big a deal, until you recognize what has happened in history since that time. People, who unite under one language, stand together much like family with others who speak the same tongue. Even with English being the main language of the United States, there were powers in the country that wanted our nation to side with the German's in both World War I and World War II.

A single vote on language may have changed the history of the world.

In a somewhat related vote, in 1923, Adolph Hitler was raised to the leadership of the German Nazi party in an election that was also decided by one vote.

In another famous small margin of victory, Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States was kept from being removed from office during his impeachment trial in 1868, by one vote.

I could go on and on. Obviously by far most elections, in this day and age of large populations, are seldom decided by such a small margin. But that seldom seen case did appear before us right here in Carbon County almost three months ago, with that 25 vote victory, in an election where 85 percent of the registered voters failed to show.

Not voting because you think the issue at hand or the office that is being chosen does not affect you is silly. They all affect you. Most of us will argue with a seller about the price of an item at a garage sale. That is very much like voting, except that you have a sure majority. You alone can decide whether to spend the amount the seller wants or not. Voting for a tax increase is a much less sure thing, because you only have part of the say. It would seem that the same people who complain about the high cost of gasoline or groceries would be just as worried about taxes, yet this past election seems to prove they are not.

Giving anyone the power to increase your taxes, without at least a yea or a nea on your part, is similar to telling someone selling you a car that they can just go ahead and send the paperwork to the bank and that you don't have to see or sign it before it is submitted.

My point is that all citizens who are qualified should vote in every election, regardless of how small and miniscule the issue or office may seem at the time. Taxes and government control are much like a oak tree; they sprang from a small seed somewhere along the line and grew into something much, much bigger.

So if you think it doesn't make a difference, think again.


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