Two-fifths of the Ceres City Council is up for grabs this fall.
The terms of Ken Lane and Eric Ingwerson expire at the end of this year. The word has it that Ingwerson will not be running again. Lane is. Others are about to enter the offering of candidates as the deadline of Aug. 9 nears.
Candidates will be preparing their candidacy strategies. Hopefully they will be prepared to defend a basic question: Why are you running?
The standard answer you're likely to hear is: "I love my hometown and I just want to give back to my community."
That answer always bothers me because if you "just want to give back" why not join the Lions Club or collect clothes for the food closet at your local church?
You'd better answer that one better than that. Serving on a City Council is a higher responsibility. It is a position of leadership and responsibility. So what is it about you, Mr. or Mrs. Candidate that makes you worthy of voter confidence to represent a city of 45,417 people?
Count on sacrifices of time - including family time - if you are elected. There are lots of meetings, study sessions, closed sessions, events to attend and there are also the side committees which members are assigned to represent the city. A councilmember had better prepared to be able to understand a budget and do a lot of number crunching.
In this day and age of politicians misbehaving, make sure that there are no obvious skeletons in your closet. That goes for personal bankruptcies that begin the question how well you are at handling money.
Be prepared to answer questions the voters give. I recall the embarrassing situation that Brian Kline found himself in during a 2011 candidate forum when asked his view on the federal "DREAM Act" and gave a deer-in-the-headlights look. I saw that same look when a wet behind the ears congressional candidate in Troy McComak was stumped by a 2012 question about his views on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), frankly stating "I don't know what that is."
Look to see what the candidate finds important. Do they have a vision for the future of Ceres that is realistic for anyone can say "...and if elected I promise a FunWorks, a hospital, and hiring more cops." Alright then, how are you going to do that?
Candidates have a responsibility to bring about a better Ceres if elected but voters have an important role to play.
First of all, vote. Men and women have died millions of times over to keep this country free. The least we could do is participate in democracy. Ceres had 18,154 registered voters in November 2011. Only 3,327 voted. That 18.33 percent voter turnout is pathetic and does not bode well for civic involvement. In fact, apathy is nothing more than permission for subpar people to get elected and then make questionable decisions (remember the fat cat salaries given out by the City Council in Bell, Calif.? In fact, Plato said: "The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men."
Apathy is not understandable given that a city government has more direct bearing over your life than does a county or state or country. After all, it is your city police and fire, how your neighborhood look, how well your sewers flush and water flow that has more bearing on your life than who is Secretary of the Interior.
But don't vote for the sake of voting. Vote intelligently. Vote after you learn what each candidate has to say. Voting for someone just because you are personal friends is not the best reason. Honestly, are they the best candidate? I am sure thats friends of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner must be embarrassed to know they put a serial masher in office. (After he issued a statement to the residents that "you have every right to be disappointed in me," the 70-year-old leader blamed the city for his unwanted sexual advances because they did not give him sexual harassment training.)
Voters need to fire up the barbecue and hold the candidates' feet to the fire. They need to define what the issues are for Ceres is not a perfect place and could stand improvement. Identify and rank the problems that Ceres faces. Right off the top I can think of blight. Can the city do more to fight blight? Can the city do anything more to attract businesses to a point where Cereans don't feel they need to leave the city to dine or buy clothes or be entertained? What about growth? Crime? Police and fire services?
Politics is not for the faint of heart. But it is highly important work.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org