Taking the partisanship out of local politics
All politics may be local. But do local politics need to be partisan?
That’s what aldermen in Frederick, Maryland’s second largest city, will discuss tonight when they consider a proposal to switch Frederick municipal elections to non-partisan status– meaning no party affiliation would be listed on the ballot.
Reporting on the development for the Frederick News-Post, reporter Adam Behsudi uncovered some interesting statistics:
Just four of the 157 municipalities in the state hold partisan elections – according to the Maryland Municipal League: Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick and Hagerstown.
And 21 of the 30 largest cities in the country hold non-partisan elections.
Local politicians will often tell you there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole. Responsive local government is about balancing budgets, plowing snow, picking up the trash on time and making sure streets are safe. The issues are nuts-and-bolts, not ideological.
But here’s another view: Those four cities – Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick and Hagerstown – are vibrant places where politics is woven into the municipal fabric. They’re some of the most interesting places in the state. Perhaps a partisan political vein has something to do with that? (I know, I know – there’s only one party in Baltimore, right?)
Where is the right place to draw the line on partisanship? In places with elected school boards, those elections are almost always non-partisan, and rightfully so.
But there’s no talk, nor should there be, about making county council races in the largest jurisdictions such as Baltimore County, Anne Arundel and Howard non-partisan. After all, county councilmen become county executives, and county executives (and mayors) become governors. Local government is often the training ground for upcoming politicians and public officials.
So, should municipal elections be non-partisan? My vote is no. What’s your opinion?