My desk has been particularly cluttered this week. It usually accumulates an amalgam of water bottles, pens, past issues of the Daily News and coffee cups. (Not to mention my prized miniature bust of John F. Kennedy.)
Later today, I'm going to take a pick and axe to all the unnecessary election ephemera beneath this pile of notebooks. What was once crucial info is now recycling fodder for Unlimited Opportunities. Yep, municipal election season has come and gone here in Boonville.
Perhaps you had a prior obligation April 3. You "had a thing," and voting just wasn't in the cards. The kids had the flu or you stubbed your toe or had a stomachache. Or that one really good episode of "Mythbusters" was on. Or you spilled some soda on your shirt and couldn't stop at home to change and didn't want to look like a schlub at the polls.
Anyway, chances are you didn't vote last Tuesday. A total of 1,235 ballots (of the 9,933 registered voters in Cooper County) were cast, resulting in a staggeringly blah 12 percent turnout rate.
And — though it tap-dances on the grave of everything I've heralded before — I guess I can't blame you. With only two contested races and one (albeit important) proposition on the ballot, it's no wonder many area voters don't go. It's a shame, really.
That lack of incentive to vote is pervasive, and that same comfortable tomb of apathy can devour potential voters. Worse yet, it can dissuade potential council candidates.
In 1981, Duane Lammers was elected to Columbia's City Council. He was 19 at the time, and juggled a courseload at Mizzou as well as the city's issues. While certainly an anomaly, that desire to become a part of a city's legislature at a young age has evaporated, I suppose.
Being a Council Member isn't a job that can be brushed away after 5 p.m. — home phone numbers for Boonville council members are published on the city's website, along with addresses. Heaven forfend they run into some particularly talkative constituent at the grocery store.
Largely, any desire to serve (especially when it comes to non-retired folks) could be squashed when it comes to payment. While being a council member isn't a full-time job, it's more or less a full-time obligation. And while people participate in city government largely as an altruistic act, that lack of payment could keep good candidates at bay.
Columbia's city council members make a grand total of $0 each. It's a volunteer gig. Boonville council members, as well as the Mayor, are budgeted to receive a total of $14,100 this budget year. That breaks down to about $1,500 per member per year.
It's not a stretch to say that $1,500 is merely a token of the city's appreciation to the council members. It's a pretty nominal chunk of money that's not going to pay the rent, bring home food or pay your water bill.
It's darn near a necessity for a council member to be retired or elsewhere have a substantial source of income. That tends to resurrect the same ideas over and over again.
With the advent of State Fair College's Boonville campus approaching, it's plausible for working folks with agile minds to want to try their luck at city council. Maybe more financial incentive would make the ballot (and ballot boxes) a bit more full.
A full ballot box is a healthy democracy, you know.