Stephen Kroll declares in the Indiana Daily Student that “no one cares about local politics.” He has a point. Local politics are not as “sexy” as national and state politics, and local government does not debate the kind of hot-button issues we find at the national level. Local government can pass resolutions about national or international issues, but local government in Indiana has no real power to influence those issues.
But I submit that students should care about local politics, because local government has a much more direct impact on your life (even as a student) than national or state government. The “Quiet Nights” program and the city of Bloomington’s noise ordinance impacts students who can get cited for being too loud after a certain time.
Sexual assault on campus is a hot national issue and the subject of Congressional hearings, but where the rubber really meets the road is how local police and the prosecutor respond to sexual assault and how aggressively they pursue the cases – and how well they protect civil liberties of students accused of crimes.
Local government matters in fire protection, as we saw in 1999 when fire trucks arriving on the scene of the fatal Knightridge fire could not pump water. The reforms initiated to give firefighters the tools and personnel they need to do their job directly impacts students, especially now that there are more high-rise student apartment complexes than there were fifteen years ago.
Even township government can be important, as we saw in 2001 with a couple anthrax scares in Bloomington – including one in Wright Quad. The Bloomington Township Fire Department had the only hazmat team in Monroe County that could respond to an event like that.
Students living off-campus can file complaints about a bad landlord through city government’s Housing and Neighborhood Development department. The city also handles trash collection, which is a basic service. It may sound funny to demean the office of county assessor, but having correct assessments is important. Correct assessments impact property tax bills, which are passed on to students in their rent.
If students are truly interested in politics and government policy, the place to start should be local government and local politics – especially since the impact of a single individual locally is much larger than it is statewide or nationally.