Embrace concept of civic duty

Embrace concept of civic duty
Too often Vermillion citizens have had to sit on the sidelines and watch as its city leaders provide less than stellar leadership.

You could say that we had it coming.

In recent years, there have been no city council elections.

Incumbents have returned to serve another term without a challenge.

And, frankly, the system wasn't designed to work that way. The mayor and city aldermen, after serving a term in office, are eligible to be challenged in an election.

Perhaps Vermillion has suffered a bit of malaise lately. Perhaps it's an attitude of "let the city council worry about our problems."

People of Vermillion have realized in recent times that there is an inherent danger if those feelings eventually aren't acted upon.

Local issues have cropped up in the past two years or so that certainly could have been handled better.

The extension of Crawford Road didn't need to turn into such a fiasco. It did, however, because city leaders decided, for some reason, that they could take no action on the issue – a move that countered suggestions from the local zoning board to carry out the project.

We've watched with disappoint this year as Alderman Roger Jeck, with help from the mayor and fellow Alderman Jere Chapman, has attempted to politicize problems first discovered last November at the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company.

Our city council couldn't even find the muster to pass a resolution, introduced recently by Alderman Mary Edelen, that would open up discussion on how Vermillion should best plan for the Hyperion Energy Center, should it be constructed nearby in Union County.

Perhaps you noticed this morning that when you stepped outside, the air smelled a bit fresher. It's a sign that spring is finally on the way.

It's also a sign of hope for new leadership in our community.

Central Ward Alderman Roger Jeck is being challenged by Jenny French.

There will be no race in the Southeast Ward. Steve Ward has filed petitions to run for alderman from that ward, but incumbent Jere Chapman apparently has decided not to seek another term.

Long-time Councilman Kevin Annis, who currently serves as the city council's vice president, has also decided not to run for re-election to represent the Northeast Ward. Vermillion businessman Howard Willson has filed nominating petitions to become a candidate for that ward.

No one is challenging Clarene Meins, who has filed nominating petitions for the Northwest Ward. Currently, no one is representing that ward. Incumbent Nathan Adams recently resigned from the city council to seek new employment.

Ward, Willson and Meins will automatically take office July 7.

People who reside in the Central Ward have been given an important opportunity to select an official whose decisions will have the most direct impact on our community.

Local government, after all, plays a key role in determining our future. Members of the city council, ideally, are often the most accessible and the most knowledgeable about community-specific issues.

Local government, however, isn't a one-way street. It demands involvement from not just the city council, county commission and the school board. Fulfilling civic duty means more than voting every four years when the national spotlight shines on elections.

It means staying informed about local issues, communicating with elected officials at all levels of government, paying attention to decisions they make, and holding them accountable by registering to vote and casting a ballot.

Let's all remember to embrace this concept of civic duty as the June city election approaches.

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