Like many who live in D.C., my political work in the last couple of years has focused more on national elections than those at home. That is because it has become more critical than ever we take back the Congress from Republicans and restore some checks and balances to our government. In the past two years, we have seen what a certifiable madman in the White House can do with a subservient Republican Congress afraid to buck him on anything. So it’s crucial for anyone with time and resources to continue to work on elections across the country. Donate money, make phone calls, travel to a neighboring state and knock on doors; it all makes a difference and when more people come out to vote we win.
While doing this, don’t forget to vote here at home. Even if not many races in D.C. appear in doubt, it’s important for every person who is eligible to vote. Like everywhere else we need everyone, including millennials who don’t have a great record of voting, to get used to doing it. We are blessed to live in this country and it is both a right and responsibility. Too often I hear friends complain about one thing or another they don’t like in the District and when I ask them if they voted they say, “No, what difference does it make?” We saw in 2016 what difference voting makes.
While District elections may not always appear to be as impactful on major issues they make a difference. Those we elect to the Council, as mayor and attorney general determine the policies that impact us and our fellow residents’ daily lives beginning with how much we pay in local taxes. They then determine how to spend that money and the District budget is now $14.5 billion. They decide if we close D.C. General and open smaller local homeless shelters and how much we pay toward supporting Metro. Our elected officials determine how much to spend on affordable housing; how much we spend on police, fire and EMS and then how those first responders are trained.
They decide how much is spent on the safety net for those who need more from our government and how that assistance is distributed. How we build and maintain our recreation centers and how we ensure health insurance and access to care for everyone. They decide how we encourage small business in the District and how much and whether we spend on attracting new businesses like Amazon. How much we invest in ensuring a healthy and safe nightlife and nominate and confirm the officials who determine who can get a liquor license and how we approve building permits. They pass laws and enforce policy ensuring the environment is a focus and keep our tree cover healthy. They determine when and how our trash is picked up and snow is removed.
All these things most of us consider crucial to ensure living, working and recreating in the city are handled in the way we want. If you want a voice, then you need to vote.
Early voting in the District of Columbia begins on Oct. 22 and you can go to the polls to cast your ballot at your convenience. Take the time to find out about all the candidates. I realize not everyone will be as involved in local politics as I am but the more time you spend getting involved the better off we all will be. Think about what issues impact you the most and find where candidates stand on them. There is room in the District budget to do many things. We can and do support the needs of the LGBTQ+ community but more can always be done. We support the homeless but know we need to do more and the same can be said for the needs of our lower income neighbors who are being priced out of the District.
My personal endorsements in the District are: For Delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton; Mayor, Muriel Bowser; Chairman of the Council, Phil Mendelson; Council-at-large (you can vote for two), Elissa Silverman and Anita Bonds; Attorney General, Karl Racine; Members of the Council; Ward one, Brianne Nadeau; Ward three, Mary Cheh; Ward five, Kenyan McDuffie; and Ward six, Charles Allen.
So take the time to VOTE. Tell your family and friends both here and around the nation to VOTE! People’s lives actually depend on it.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.