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EDITORIAL: What’s on your mind?

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DID YOU KNOW that there’s an election six weeks from now? Have you made plans to vote? This is not a test. Or is it.

On November 7 registered voters in Columbia County will help elect a state Supreme Court judge for this judicial district plus a county sheriff and one of the county’s three coroners. Depending on the community where you’re registered, you will also elect municipal officials, a list that might include a supervisor, a town clerk, a Town Board member or two, and maybe a justice or a highway superintendent.

Hudson voters will choose a mayor, a Common Council president and city treasurer. Each of the five wards in the county’s only city will also select someone to sit on the county Board of Supervisors.

All of these offices together account for what’s meant by the term “local government.” The people we elect November 7 make routine decisions like how many potholes get filled and how much you’ll have to pay for the services that affect your daily life. They face tougher choices too. Right now, for example, the Board of Supervisors is deciding how the county should respond to the opioid epidemic that’s caused at least a dozen deaths here over just the last nine months.

Aside from the duties designated for the district attorney and the sheriff, Columbia County is governed by the Board of Supervisors. The members of that board are the town supervisors from each of the county’s 18 towns and the 5 Hudson Wards. These 23 people decide budgets, legislation and appointments using a weighted vote system based on population. Now they must also coordinate and fund the services that comprise county’s response to the opioid crisis.

Of the 23 seats on the Board of Supervisors, 18 are up for election this fall. In theory voters could change the balance of power in the county. Republicans have held a solid majority on the board for as long as anyone now serving can remember except for a brief period after Watergate. But over the last few years Democrats have outnumbered Republicans in terms of voter registration. Despite this enrollment reversal the Board of Supervisors and many town boards frequently work in a bipartisan fashion. Maybe that cooperation reduces the incentive for change and lowers voter turnout at the local level.

A small newspaper like this can’t afford to conduct polls even if polls would help voters make better choices–which they wouldn’t. But one welcome and affordable indicator of voter engagement is the number of letters to the editor we’re now receiving. It’s embarrassing to report that this week the editor–me–neglected to set aside adequate space for them. Please be patient. There will be more space for letters beginning with our October 5 issue.

In the meantime, here are our letter writer rules:

• Send all letters in the body of an email to letters@columbiapaper.com. For security reasons we do not accept attachments

• Letters are processed in the order they are received; deadline is noon Monday on the week of publication

• Include your first and last name, the community where you live and your phone number; we won’t publish your number but we will call to confirm you sent the letter

• We don’t print letters with ad hominem attacks or accusations of criminal acts

• You may send more than one letter during a campaign but we give priority to writers whose letters we have not yet published.

We also have special rules that apply to our last issue before the election:

• Letters for the November 2 issue must only be in support of a candidate or ballot issue

• The only exception applies to a letter from a candidate who responds to specific charges made against the candidate in the previous issue (October 26).

It’s just a “local” election but it reminds the people who govern us that for the moment the public is paying attention. It also assures us that our votes do matter. And when you share your thoughts by writing a letter to the editor you amplify your opinion from a murmur to a shout.

Send us letters and mark Election Day on your calendar and confirm where you vote by checking with the county Board of Elections at columbiacountyny.com/elections/ or 518-828-3115.

We have a constitutional right to express our views in a public forum. Exercising that right is the best way to preserve it.

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