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Look local on Nov. 6

Published October 20, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I have come to learn that Utahns are fiercely independent people with strong beliefs.

We believe in our friends and neighbors. We believe in our fellow Utahns. We believe in family and integrity, trust and honesty. We believe in taking care of each other and in taking care of those less fortunate than ourselves. And we believe in being good stewards of our planet.

In a matter of days, we will take those beliefs to the voting booth. Yes, this election is important and there has been much local focus on the presidential race, our U.S. Senate race, and our four congressional races. But election day is about more than those contests.

From the governor's race to the state legislative races, county races, and state school board races, this election is about our fellow Utahns who will influence our lives on a daily basis.

So far this year, Congress has passed 195 bills, or one bill for every 1.2 million Americans of voting age — most of which have limited direct impact on us. During the 2011 legislative session, the Utah Legislature passed 477 bills. That's one bill passed for every 4,000 Utahns of voting age. These laws impact all of us every day.

Come January, our local elected officials will face great challenges and great opportunities on behalf of our state.

They will make decisions about air quality impacting our children every day at school recess. They will determine the extent to which Utah will participate in the Affordable Care Act, regardless the outcome of the presidential election.

They will decide whether to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid or whether to rely on state resources to provide care to the most needy among us.

If history is a guide, they could pass laws that impact the public's access to records, the schools' ability to provide comprehensive sex education to our kids (or our parents), and how easy it is to get guns and where they can be carried. They will decide if Utah will remain last in per-pupil spending in the country and how many policemen and firemen there are to protect us.

They will impact local businesses and, yes, they will decide what fights to pick with the federal government.

The impact of these decisions on our daily lives will be profound — likely far more profound than any decisions made by the president or members of Congress.

So it is critical that every eligible voter remember her or his right and obligation to vote.

At the Alliance for a Better UTAH, we urge every eligible voter to educate themselves about the issues that matter to them and to ignore the "D" or "R" or "I" that follow a candidate's name. Rather, we should pass judgment on these individuals based on their positions and their characters. These men and women are choosing to serve, but it is our obligation to choose them. Choose carefully. Choose wisely.

These are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. These are the people we see at PTA meetings and Scouting events, at church meetings and neighborhood block parties.

Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the people running for elected office in Utah are just like the rest of us — fiercely independent, with a strong commitment to their neighbors and communities.

The more we see these individuals as people, and not projections of their political parties, the more likely we are to end up with elected officials that truly listen to us. Elected officials whom we can trust.

Joshua S. Kanter is the founder of the Alliance for a Better UTAH (http://www.betterutah.org) in Salt Lake City.