I’ll admit it. I rolled my eyes when I read today’s task: Learn about your local representatives and issues.”
In theory, I absolutely believe that the best way we can make a difference in the world is to get involved locally. If everyone made sure their neighbor – just one neighbor – was doing alright, then everyone would be okay. Everyone. Wouldn’t that be remarkable? The problem, and this is my problem, is that I bring a number of preconceptions to local politics. The first is that it’s just a bunch of busybodies trying to be the Most Important Person In Town. The second is that local politics revolve around bickering over who gets their street’s potholes fixed first. The third – and here is where I am the MOST lame – is that they are all Republicans. Even when there’s an election, it will be among Republicans. Why would I even bother?
Nice attitude. I know.
Anyway, I was right on at least that last bit, not that it’s a good excuse of any kind. My parents live in District 4, and our commissioner is Patrick Bell. He’s being challenged this year by two people … both Republicans. But in local issues, I’m learning, the distinction of Republican versus Democrat is totally different. Or a little different. And anyway, saying I’m not informed because I’m outnumbered is self-defeating and inexcusable. So here we go …
HERE’S something interesting: on Super Tuesday, there will be a referendum to approve Sunday alcohol sales. That’s an interesting move toward the universe outside the Bible belt. There’s another issue – a change to the ethics code – up for approval; it says that the county can’t enter into a contract with a company “in which a public official or employee is a principal.” That one hits on one of the FREQUENT complaints I grew up hearing about commissioners in this town. Everyone (except the kids of the actual commissioners) always says that the commissioners here act largely in their own financial self-interest. I always ask, Why not elect someone else? I’m always answered, How would that make a difference?
Here’s the issue I found the most compelling. It’s a great illustration of where this county is. After centuries of agrarian culture, Forsyth County has transformed in the last couple of decades into a sprawling suburb, dotted with quaint old farmhouses that are rarely attached any longer to a working farm. Last fall, the County served a backyard beekeeper with a notice that his “livestock” were in violation of his property’s zoning. Last week, the County commission voted 5-0 to hold two public hearings on changing the code so that bees will no longer be considered livestock, making beekeepers all over the county happy and, surely, horrifying hundreds of fancy house owners. I love this for two reasons. One, beekeepers are performing a valuable service that the world needs. Honey bees are increasingly threatened. We need caring people to foster the populations we have left, populations that do us the tiny favor of pollinating EVERYTHING WE EAT. That’s an oversimplication, but you know what I mean. But also, people need to get back in touch with the natural world. We can’t live in perfectly sanitized glass and steel. And anyway, what kind of life is that? Get out there. Raise some bees. Grow some wheat. Make the Department of Commerce crazy.
Just one thing … I’m not sure why this bee thing requires a vote on whether to have TWO meetings about whether to have a vote. Local, state and federal, a pitiful lack of efficiency seems to be the biggest problem we face.