Municipal races gain little interest from Fox Chapel area voters
By Tawnya Panizzi
Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
If the recent primary election left you feeling underwhelmed, you're not alone.
There were few races across the Lower Valley and few people turned out to vote.
Going in, political observers warned that it would be dismal. They guessed that less than half of the Allegheny County's registered voters would care enough to carve out five extra minutes in their day to stop at a local fire hall or church basement to cast their vote on who will run their schools and municipalities for the next four years.
That estimate, it turns out, was lofty compared to the actual 18 percent of registered voters who showed up.
Pundits might say that's typical for a primary contest — the county has a 23 percent voter turnout in primaries over the last eight years — but the numbers still are pathetic. Sadly, you can't really blame people who don't bother to vote when there's little to nothing to choose from. There's a circle of apathy that sorely needs to be broken.
Here, in the communities that comprise the Fox Chapel Area School District, there were only three races where residents could even cast a vote that mattered. The remainder of the competitions saw candidates running unopposed.
There was a heated race for Sharpsburg Mayor between Democratic incumbent Richard Panza and newcomer Karen Iezzi, and five candidates sought four open seats on Sharpsburg council. There were four candidates vying for two open seats in Region 3 of the school district.
The rest of the council and mayoral races were uncontested and provided virtual wins for the primary candidates, no matter how many people turned out to vote.
Of the 30,000 or so residents that live in our six communities, about 30 people ran for local government offices. That's one-tenth of 1 percent.
As reporters, we get paid to attend those monthly meetings and share information on tax rates, road closures and pension plans. And many times, we are the only people in the audience, which used to surprise me.
Doesn't anyone care how the elected officials are spending your money?
Which roads will be paved this summer?
Which parks are on the improvement list?
How much money the new fire truck costs? How much of a raise the public works department is getting?
Participating in local government, either by running for office or at the very least showing up at monthly meetings, is a way to have a hand in shaping daily life. You can't only show up when you have a complaint.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or email@example.com.
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