Who cares about small town government?

By Ralph Echtinaw

Apathy on the part of Gratiot County residents for their small town governments is almost epic in scale.

Case in point: Ithaca has an election this year but no choices for voters.

Yes, the terms for mayor and three council members are up this year, expiring Nov. 21. But there will be no suspense come that date, as there is only one candidate for mayor and three for council.

Current mayor Tim Palmer is not seeking reelection. Mayor Pro Tem Alice Schafer is the only candidate to replace him.

Schafer gives up her council seat to run for mayor. Current councilman Rick Koppleberger seeks reelection, but Brian Henderson does not. That leaves two vacancies on the council, but there are just two “challengers” to fill them (Scott Gray and Clark Hubbard).

If you’re an Ithaca voters I feel sorry for you. Why bother going to the polls when the outcome is preordained on account of a dearth of challengers?

Small town residents should know more about what their city council’s are up to, but I don’t put the whole blame on them for not staying informed.

Local officials could do much more in terms of keeping folks informed. Why not collect email addresses of residents and send council meeting agendas to them in advance of every meeting? Why not send them a list of everything the city council does? Why not send monthly police and fire department reports to residents the same way, along with a summary of activity written by police and fire chiefs?

Filing deadlines for upcoming elections could be publicized in the same way.

But city officials seem to not have realized that email is an efficient and inexpensive way of keeping residents informed.

Current council members in all cities and townships in Gratiot County should work harder at informing residents about what’s going on. And email is a cheap and efficient way to do it.

If that were the case in Ithaca, voters would probably have choices this November and, hence, a reason to vote.

Full disclosure: The author of this article is the only challenger for a seat on St. Louis City Council this year.

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