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Another View: Why you should run for local office

Another View
By: Jim McCauley, Placer County clerk-recorder-registrar of voters
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Celebrated as the best example of democracy and cursed as the worst form of fragmented government, special districts, school districts and city councils are California’s most abundant form of local government. Placer County has over 80 local government bodies that elect candidates to governing board positions. In most districts, the only requirements to run for these positions are to be a registered voter and live in the jurisdiction. Serving on a local district provides opportunities to help shape the communities in which we live. As a board member, you can frame the debate on issues such as academic standards, environmental protection, and public safety. It was Placer County school board trustees who led the national debate on religion in schools by standing by their decision to have “God Bless America” placed on their school marquee after attacks on 9/11. Despite the rewards, candidates for these positions often run unopposed because so few people make the effort to run for office. If a candidate for local office faces no opposition, state law automatically awards the office to that person. The candidate never has to debate his or her views and voters never get a chance to have their voices heard. In Placer County, of the 180 seats open for election in November 2008 just over half of the incumbents faced opposition — the others returned to office unopposed. Unbelievably, some seats received no candidate interest and went unfilled during the candidate filing process. In a republic, the best way to ensure our elected officials are representing us properly is to have them stand for reelection on a recurring basis. However, we must be willing to put our names forward to have these offices appear on the ballot. Candidate filing for the Nov. 2 General Election will open on July 12 and close on Aug. 6. If an incumbent fails to file by Aug. 6, candidate filing will continue in that office for everyone but the incumbent until Aug. 11. There is no cost to file for most offices. You will need to complete some paperwork, but my staff is prepared to help you by explaining the forms and answering your questions. If you are unfamiliar with your local districts or would like to check your residency in a particular district, you may call the Placer County Office of Elections and we can provide a list of districts for which you would be eligible based on your residence address. If you are interested in running for office but do not know where to begin, my office provides a series of “Candidate Workshops” aimed at answering the questions of first-time candidates. The workshops will be held on June 23 in Lincoln, July 1 in Tahoe City, July 8 in Rocklin, July 17 in Auburn and July 19 in Roseville. Visit our website, www.placerelections.com, or contact us at (530) 886-5650 for times and locations. If you cannot attend a workshop, please call or come by the office and we will answer your questions. Jim McCauley is the Placer County clerk-recorder-registrar of voters ------------------------ To learn more For candidate and office holder information, contact candidate services at (530) 886-5650.