Tip O’Neill, the long-serving Massachusetts Congressman and Speaker of the House is often credited for originating the phrase, “All politics is local.” He may not have been the one who said it first, but he certainly used it, as far back as 1935 when he first ran for the Massachusetts legislature. All policy, all legislation, touches the lives of people where they live at some point. This election cycle, there are more than 600 candidates campaigning for office in Cuyahoga County alone, running for mayors, council seats and other posts. There are also ballot referenda for 68 issues. You can’t get much more local than that!
Local elections may lack the attention or the participation of national, or even state races. Many races are nonpartisan. Candidates and referenda items often operate on small campaign budgets and rely on grassroots and word of mouth efforts. But the issues, and the decisions made by city councils, school boards, mayors and commissioners have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of residents in those communities.
Aging is local, too!
This November, for the first time since 2005, there is no incumbent in the Cleveland mayoral race. The two candidates on the November ballot, Kevin Kelley and Justin Bibb, recently participated in a Senior Forum sponsored by the Center for Community Solutions and hosted by the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.
The Senior Forum gave candidates an opportunity to address issues and concerns of older adults in Cleveland. Both candidates provided an overview of their platforms and took questions from the community. And what were the issues that mattered most to residents? Top priorities were public safety, transportation, health and healthcare, economic development and the “digital divide.” Both candidates addressed the importance of mental health, and neighborhood amenities in promoting a better quality of life. The same issues that draw other voters to the polls are the ones that matter to older voters, too.
There is a tendency in our society to see political issues as the things that divide us. More often than not, especially at the local level, there is a great deal that we agree on. Sometimes we fail to see community planning or economic development or education as an “aging issue,” but the benefits of a healthy environment, a strong economic climate and thriving neighborhoods accrue to everyone, regardless of age. Many older adults are active in the workforce and are a major part of the consumer economy. Caregiving responsibilities for families cut across all age, demographic and economic boundaries. Addressing “aging issues” is not choosing to ignore other ones. It is not a case of either/or, but one of “yes/and.” And many of the big decisions on these issues are made at the local level.
Older voters matter.
Persons aged 60 and older comprise more than 25 percent of the adult population in Cuyahoga County. They represent one-third of the adult population. As a group, they are more likely to vote than younger residents. Their votes and their voices matter. And not just on “aging issues.”
Your vote matters, too.
There are more than 850,000 registered voters in Cuyahoga County. But many of them don’t show up on election day. Local and off-year elections have lower turnout. In 2017, fewer than one-third of the folks eligible to vote went to the polls. Please vote. You don’t have a voice if you don’t cast a ballot.
If you missed the Senior Forum, it is available on the Center for Community Solutions website at https://www.communitysolutions.com/coop-mayoral-forum/