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Community Engagement

Nina Hickson Reminds Us That If We Care About Michael Brown, We'll Vote That Way November 4

Nina Hickson is a former juvenile court judge.  She serves as chair of the legislative issues and public affairs committee for the Buckhead-Cascade City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, a national service organization.  She is featured this weekend on the WCLK Public Affairs Block, talking about the importance of voting in local elections with regards to local injustices.

Here is the Op-Ed piece penned by Hickson about this issue:

MICHAEL BROWN’S DEATH:  A WAKE UP CALL TO AN APATHETIC COMMUNITY

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Reneisha McBride and many, many others…

We hear their stories and are outraged, heartbroken, overwhelmed, shocked and filled with dismay.  The demonstrations over the past few weeks indicate that the community wishes to be heard about these tragedies.  The community cares about the killing of unarmed men and women; folks are concerned about how to obtain justice when these events occur; mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles want someone held accountable for what has happened.  However, do we care enough to use one of the most important tools in our arsenal for solving problems?  Are we willing to become informed, educate others and VOTE?

Admittedly, the issues raised by these recent shootings are complex and multi-faceted.  There is not just one global answer.  How do we make the world value the lives of persons who are demonized and stereotyped in the mass media?  What do we do to prevent the proliferation of guns in our neighborhoods? What are we to do about police brutality, racial profiling, mass incarceration of people of color and the misuse of “Stand Your Ground” laws? How do we make our children feel safe in an environment filled with violence?  What are those steps that we take to help them become the best that they can be when they are “under siege” and “under suspicion?”  I don’t pretend to have the answers for these gut wrenching questions.  What I do know is that apathy is not the response.

We must participate in the process of electing those persons who make the decisions which affect our everyday lives; whether it is the school board member who hires the superintendent who is responsible for educating our children or the prosecutor who decides what cases to bring and suggests the sentences to be handed down or the judge who decides who stays locked-up, who gets custody of children and how persons who violate the public trust are punished?

It is said that “All politics is local.”  This is particularly true when it comes to determining who is hired to “protect and serve” our communities.  Whether you live in a city where the Mayor leads the day-to-day operations of that city, or a city where a city manager or administrator runs the city, the persons whom you elect as Mayor, City Council person or County Commissioner recruit and hire your chief of police.  That chief hires and supervises your police officers.  If we did not learn anything else from these recent events, we should have learned that it matters who the police officers are who have the day-to-day contact with the public.  These decisions are not made by the President of the United States or members of Congress.  Your local elected officials are the ones who make the decisions about the folks who impact your everyday lives. As a voter, you determine who your local elected officials are.

When you fail to vote, you essentially leave that decision to other persons who may not represent the concerns of your community.  As you have seen, these types of decisions can determine life or death.  We cannot afford to remain silent or to be inactive.

We are told that the numbers of people who vote in local elections is significantly less than those who vote in the elections for the President of the United States.  The predictions for the November mid-term elections are for that pattern to continue.  However, we as a community cannot abdicate our right and duty to vote.  Our quality of life and the safety of neighborhoods depend on our action.  More importantly, our children’s ability to realize the “American dream” depends upon adults voting for responsible and proactive people who  will make the right decisions and  the same adults calling elected officials to task when they do not.

We should never forget the many sacrifices made for this cherished right to vote.  Shame on us if we do!   Not only is the health and well-being of our communities at stake, but the future of our precious children and generations to come depend on you and me.  How will we respond?

For information on early voting, click here.

For the League of Women Voters 2014 Georgia Voters Guide, click here.