Local government, we have long maintained, is the government that can do the most for you ... or to you.
Local government decides how many police officers and firefighters are available to you in an emergency, and how well trained and equipped they are.
Local government decides how many parks your community has, what programs are offered at them, and how well maintained they are.
Local government decides if your dog must be leashed, how long your car can be parked on the street, how often your garbage will be collected, and when your street will be re-paved.
Local government does not have the power to declare war, but in most other particulars, it has the most immediate effect on your life. And in all likelihood, your local elected officials are easier than any other officeholders for you and your neighbors to contact when you have a problem.
Bartow voters will elect one city commissioner in April.
All citizens are eligible to vote in the election, no matter where they live, and those who want to have a voice in the political direction of their city should do so.
Only one-third of the citizens — those living in what is called the north election district — are eligible to run, thanks to an archaic and unnecessary system that divides this city of 16,000 or so residents into three political wards. That is an issue for another day.
The choices in April’s election are clear.
Adrian “A.J.” Jackson is seeking his third three-year term; Gerald Cochran is running for what he believes is his 21st try to win a seat on the commission.
Gerald Cochran is Bartow’s most outspoken critic of city government, which does not win him many friends on the city commission or in the top echelons of the city administration.
But Gerald Cochran serves a valuable role in the community. He is a thorn in the side of city government, pointing out things that the powers that be would rather not have pointed out.
He complained at length about what he called “swill” leaking from garbage trucks. And what happened? Swill no longer leaks from garbage trucks.
He has complained for years about the city’s cost — a subsidy, if you don’t like it — to operate the municipal golf course. The city continues to put money into the course each year, and probably always will, but commissioners regularly review its operations, something that seldom happened before Cochran got on his soapbox.
Most of Cochran’s criticisms of city government have merit (and the same criticisms can be made of many private companies). It is the tone, not the content, of his remarks that reduces his effectiveness.
In most elections, he garners 20 to 25 percent of the vote, which should serve as a reminder to those in power that one in every four or five voters finds merit in his anti-establishment views.
That said, we believe Jackson deserves another term. His background as an officer in the Navy Reserve — he retired as a two-star admiral — gives him a wealth of management experience.
In lengthy interviews of both candidates by our editorial board, he showed a greater understanding of the issues, ranging from the fire tax (which he supports) to the value of the golf course (which he also supports) to the perplexing issue of what to do about the airport restaurant (of which he has a sound grasp but for which he has no magic solution).
Gerald Cochran has served the city well as the loyal opposition, and we hope he will continue to do so.
A.J. Jackson has served the city well as a city commissioner, and we recommend his election to a third term in office.