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For voters, it's budgets and ballots
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Forsyth County News
In Forsyth County and most other communities across the state and nation, two topics seem to be dominating the local news these days — the economic woes faced by local government agencies and upcoming elections.

Though diverse in their nature, the two are integrally intertwined, especially insofar as local residents and potential voters are concerned.

At every level, government bodies are contending with the harsh reality of ongoing shortfalls in revenues. Forsyth County, though better positioned than most, is no exception, as members of the school board, county government and city government are tasked with finding ways to continue to provide essential services without increasing taxes.

Here and elsewhere, reductions in service, pay cuts for personnel (furloughs), elimination of positions and postponing of new projects are among the ways governing agencies are dealing with the crunch.

So what does that have to do with the primary and general elections that fill the calendar for the latter half of 2010? Everything.

Perhaps more than anytime in recent history it is important that voters approach the upcoming elections with a solid idea of what it is they consider to be essential services that should be priorities when money is tight — and to support those candidates who think similarly.

In good times, it is easy for political candidates to appeal to the electorate by making broad promises that in the past could be supported by a robust economy. Want more parks? Sure thing. More roads? Absolutely. Customer service not what you expected? We’ll hire more folks. Schools crowded? We’ll build another.

That sort of thinking created some of the economic problems now being faced at every level of government.

This election season there is a need for candidates who demonstrate the sort of creative thinking needed to do more with less. We need pragmatism on the campaign trail rather than promises; harsh doses of reality rather than sugar coated pablum.

And the only people who can make that happen are the voters. It’s up to the voters to demand real answers from the candidates; up to the voters to forego the ease of the sound bite in favor of the truly analytical platform plank.

The harsh economic realities of the past three years have proven there is no longer room for shallow thinking and simplistic solutions at any level of government. This year we have to demand more.

Today’s candidates face the tough job of telling us not how they hope to grow and expand government to provide us with everything we might want, but rather how they plan to reduce and constrict in order to provide us with what we truly need.

But proving a willingness to cut government now isn’t enough. There must also be a commitment to an ongoing effort to keep the size of governments from again ballooning out of shape once the economy improves.

Today’s budget stories and tomorrow’s elections are chapters from the same civics book that every potential voter needs to read and memorize.

A test will be forthcoming on election day.