Love July 4? Then vote.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:15 PM

Bayfielders love the Fourth of July. We turn out in our red, white, and blue outfits and our red, white, and blue Mardi Gras beads. We take great pride in our patriotic celebration.

But there's this other thing. Free elections and an informed citizenry are an essential part of our representative democracy. Town board elections are about as immediate as it gets.

But in 2012, out of around 1,600 registered voters in town, only 67 bothered to cast ballots for the town board election. Apparently, many residents didn't even know there was an election.

That's not how democracy works, folks!

After that sorry turnout, I wrote that all the people who didn't vote should wear paper bags over their heads for the Fourth. I didn't notice anyone who did that in 2012.

But now townies have another chance. The town board election is April 1 at town hall. Yes, that's April Fools Day, but the election is for real. Four people are running for three board seats.

So if you are a registered voter and live in town limits, I hope you will celebrate the Fourth early by learning about the candidates and then voting.

By the way, the election also includes a ballot question to raise the town sales tax rate from 2 percent up to 3 percent, with the additional money designated for street-related projects. Town sales tax and a share of county sales taxes are the town's main revenue source.

Decisions are made by them that show up.

Ignacio's town board election also is on April 1. Percentage-wise, they had a much better voter turn-out in 2012 than Bayfield did, but it's worth noting that the mayor's race that year was decided by one vote. The school district's $50 million bond issue was decided by one vote. So each vote rally does count.

Current Ignacio Mayor Stella Cox is running unopposed for a full term. Four incumbents and three challengers are running for four board seats.

Ignacio also has a ballot question to be able to publish ordinances by title only instead of full text, with the full text to be posted for anyone who wants to read them. This was motivated by the cost of publishing a couple very long ordinances back in December. Disclosure - The Times benefitted from that.

That's occasion to transition (as part of Freedom of Information Week) to the more general issue of legal notices published in newspapers. These notices are a significant revenue source for newspapers, which as everyone knows are a struggling industry, but I consider them vital to our democracy.

I am separating this from whether already approved ordinances should be published. I'll leave that to Ignacio voters. I doubt anyone actually waded through the mind-numbing legalese of those ordinances we published in December.

But there are all sorts of other legal notices from the state, the county, towns, school districts, and special service districts - budget notices, election notices, public hearing notices for things that might affect you, proposed rule changes, and the like. Newspaper legal notices are a one-stop place to see those to know what these entities are up to.

Raise your hand if first thing in the morning you'd rather go on your computer to the individual web site of each of these entities to find that information instead.

There are ongoing state and national efforts to make you do that if you want to be an informed citizen, and put another nail in the newspaper industry coffin.