Compare Answers, Not Ads
- by Ellis Anderson
Say the word “election” at a family gathering or a dinner party now and watch everyone flinch or duck for cover. You may as well toss a hand grenade onto the table.
Some brave soul will quickly remind you that it’s impolite to talk about religion or politics, while others will leave the room, groaning and pulling their hair. Because no matter where you stand philosophically, 2016 was not a pretty year for politics.
But I’m saying it right here. Election.
Election, election, election.
Because local elections are different. And this year in Bay St. Louis, a new online forum has the potential to make it one of the most interesting elections in the history of the town.
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.
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.