Time to become informed on important local elections

The Wichita Eagle

Some look at this as an off year for elections. There are no national races, no statewide races, no legislative elections in an odd-numbered year.

But it’s an off year only if you think City Council and school board races aren’t critical. The Nov. 7 election will set a path for local government for the next two years.

If you choose not to care about local elections this fall, just remember this:

▪ City Council members approve the yearly budget that may (or may not) allow the street in front of your home to get needed repairs. They decide what swimming pools are available for your children. They consider the future of downtown riverfront projects.

▪ Board of Education members decide when school starts. They approve a special curriculum for your student. They sometimes have to decide whether to close schools or lay off teachers.

Both Wichita elections will change the makeup of their bodies.

Districts 1 and 6 will have new Council members after Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller leave because of term limits. James Clendenin, the District 3 member, is running for re-election. In these races, only voters within a district choose that district’s representative.

The Wichita school board will have a different look after the November election, maybe drastically. Only two members, Barb Fuller and Sheril Logan, are guaranteed to return. Two members, Betty Arnold and Mike Rodee, are running for re-election, and two districts will have new representatives after District 2’s Joy Eakins and District 6’s Lynn Rogers decided not to run again. District 4’s Jeff Davis announced Monday he has moved out of the district; the board will select a replacement to fill the remaining two years of his term.

Unlike City Council, all voters living in the Wichita school district may vote on school board candidates in all districts.

City Council and school board races are often the most important elections we have, yet they usually get the lowest turnout if there are no state or national races on the same ballot.

That’s why candidate forums, which are beginning in earnest this month, are so important. They’re one of the few opportunities to hear from candidates and judge their abilities yourself. There’s no better voter than an informed voter.

Candidate endorsements

The Eagle has begun publishing letters of endorsement of candidates. Letters are to be no more than 200 words and can be sent to letters@wichitaeagle.com or mailed to Letters to the Editor, The Wichita Eagle, 330 N. Mead, Wichita, 67202.

Endorsement letters will be published through Nov. 5.

Upcoming candidate forums

Monday: United Way of the Plains, 245 N. Water, hosted by Wichita Independent Neighborhoods, 5:30 p.m. (Wichita City Council, Wichita school board)

Sept. 24: Tabernacle Bible Church, 1817 N. Volutsia, hosted by Voter Empowerment, 4 p.m. (City Council, school board)

Oct. 2: Central Branch Library, 223 S. Main, hosted by Kansas Appleseed, 6 p.m. (school board)

Oct. 4: Century II, Mary Jane Teall Theater, hosted by Arts Council, 5 p.m. (Council)

Oct. 5: Progressive Baptist Church, 2727 E. 25th Street North, hosted by Greater Wichita Ministerial League, 9 a.m. (Council)

Wichita City Council candidates: District 1, Brandon Johnson, Mike Kinard; District 3, James Clendenin, William Stofer; District 6, Cindy Claycomb, Sybil Strum.

Wichita school board candidates: District 1, Betty Arnold, Ben Blankley; District 2, Julie Hedrick, Trish Hileman, Debra Washington; District 5, Peter Grant, Mike Rodee; District 6, Walt Chappel, Shirley Jefferson, Ron Rosales.