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Local Politics Matter, Too

Christian Patterson |
January 21, 2013 | 11:53 a.m. PST


Local politics matters, too. (frontenddeveloper.com, Creative Commons)
Local politics matters, too. (frontenddeveloper.com, Creative Commons)
On the day of President Obama’s second inauguration, the country is understandably fixated on the Martin Luther King day events in Washington. The 2012 election meant a great deal to millions of Americans. The direction our nation takes on important issues like healthcare, marriage equality, entitlement spending and energy policy was at stake in November. The President’s swearing in for a second term signals a continued four years of a progressive policy agenda at the federal level.

While all of that is exciting, and certainly worth following, we’d be remiss if we allowed our myopic focus on the national stage to prevent us from paying attention to politics that takes place closer to home. The positions of Barack Obama and John Boehner may have an outsized impact on our stances toward Iran, the national deficit and whether the Keystone pipeline gets built. However, the decisions that affect most Americans’ everyday lives will take place in city halls and statehouses across the country.

Whether our streets get swept, the sidewalks are fixed, or whether our streets remain safe are decidedly unsexy issues. However, their resolution will have a much larger impact on a community’s quality of life than a major tax cut or a declaration condemning Hamas ever could. 

This lesson was instilled in me only recently, as I spent last Sunday afternoon and early evening walking precincts with a candidate for Los Angeles City Council. The district he’s running to represent contains South Los Angeles an area where 30 percent of the residents live in poverty, yet a day's worth of conversations in one of Los Angeles’ poorest areas didn’t yield a single reference to crushing federal regulations, welfare, or any of the issues Mitt Romney and Barack Obama battled over throughout last year.

People wanted to know when the city was coming to clean the graffiti that blighted their neighborhoods. They wanted to know when animal control would do something about the endless stream of stray dogs that roamed their streets. They wanted to know what could be done to keep their homes secure, their kids in school, and their property values from declining. They wanted these things not just because they’re entitled to them (which they most certainly are). They asked because they wanted to attract businesses to the area so they could drop the near-25 percent unemployment rate, provide opportunities for the young people who hadn’t finished high school, and so that they wouldn’t have to travel 15 miles to find a decent supermarket.

The opening of a new Trader Joes or other similar stores may go unnoticed in many communities around Los Angeles and the rest of the country. But the presence of new businesses in areas like South Los Angeles could do a lot for the quality of life of thousands of people.

National issues are important. Some get the blood boiling. Some make for interesting conversations. More than a few will have a large effect on people’s everyday lives. We shouldn’t forget, though, that what happens in City Hall will affect our lives, too. I’m hoping that President Obama’s second term will bring good fortunes to all Americans and keep our country on the path to recovery. However, I intend to monitor whether local leaders do their part as well.


Reach Columnist Christian Patterson here; follow him here.



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