Coast Lines - January 2017
Compare Answers, Not Ads
A new non-partisan website gives local candidates a place to introduce themselves and share detailed answers to important questions. Elections in Bay St. Louis may never be the same.
- by Ellis Anderson
It all starts with a website called Serve Bay St. Louis — because that’s what we expect the officials we elect in 2017 to do. The site is created by volunteers working with the Shoofly Magazine, with the help of our civic supporters at the Hancock Chamber.
Serve BSL contains demystified voter information and a dedicated online forum, where candidates for city council and mayor can introduce themselves and put forth their qualifications. For free.
Most importantly, participating candidates will have the opportunity to answer a set of questions to explain where they stand on important issues and what they’ll do to tackle problems. Again, at no cost: While billions are being spent to influence elections now in this country, candidates in Bay St. Louis won’t have to borrow lots of money to reach voters or accept donations for which they might feel beholden.
The non-partisan site is put together by a tripartisan group of Shoofly volunteers, so you won’t be pushed or pulled in any direction.
The tagline for Serve Bay St. Louis is Compare Answers, Not Ads.
As a voter, you’ll be able to do just that, and you can do it on your phone while you’re getting your oil changed or waiting in line to pick up your child from school. Young voters and people new in town can find out how to register (it’s easy!). Everybody can see where and when to vote. There are evenmaps to show which ward you live in.
If you’re the curious sort, there’s a page where you can find out about our type of municipal government (spoiler alert: strong mayor/council). You can read the job descriptions for mayor and city council members and find out how much they earn.
Of course, political advertisements won’t go away. Don’t expect yard signs to disappear either. And everybody has a good time at the live candidate forums! In fact, we want more of those (and Serve BSL will help publicize any that may take place).
But this is the place where candidates can explain their views in depth, and voters can digest candidates’ stances on issues at their own pace - in their free time.
Because every vote matters.
I moved to the Bay in the mid-90s, but never paid much attention to local elections until I heard about Charles Piazza. He ran for Waveland Alderman in 2002. The vote was tied — an extraordinary circumstance, even in a small town. The election was decided by a coin toss. Charles Piazza lost.
The point was underscored in 2014, when Charles Piazza ran for office again. In odds that must be in the Powerball range, the vote was tied once more. That time, the candidates drew straws.Charles pulled the long one and is serving as alderman today.
About the time Mr. Piazza taught me how much one vote mattered, I began realizing how local issues are major issues - at least when it comes to daily living. The mayor and each member of the city council have direct impact on the city’s police and fire protection, water safety, and road maintenance. Each contributes to local regulations and enforcement at have a major our property values and quality of life.
But hey, I was busy. The whole local election thing seemed very confusing. What ward do I live in, anyway? And how do those primary thingamajigs work exactly? While I knew my one vote was important here and could even decide an election, how was I supposed to find out whom to cast it for?
A sad, but true confession: in years past, I'd ask a friend. I’ll call her Mary. Unlike me, Mary does her civic homework. Unlike me, she would take the time to relentlessly hunt down every nugget of information about candidates before making her decisions.
The day before an election, I’d call Mary and say, Help! Where do I vote? Who do I vote for? And she’d tell me and explain why in great detail.
But this year, Mary is finally off the hook (and I'm sure she'll be delighted!). I’ll be using the Serve Bay St. Louis site to draw my own conclusions, thank you very much.
So go ahead and say it. Election. Because in 2017, the one in Bay St. Louis is going to be very, very different.
Do you have questions you'd like to ask the candidates for BSL City Council and Mayor? Submit your question now! Our ti-partisan volunteer team will choose from those submitted by the public to ask the candidates in our online forum!
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