When I thought long and hard about who or what to write about for my annual, year-end “...of the Year” column, and when I looked back at what appeared to be 2012’s biggest stories in the C-I, the choice was clear: the voters of Kershaw County.
Whether actually voting on primary or Election Day, or just speaking out about whatever cause or candidate they supported (or opposed), it was voters who had the biggest impact on our community this year.
Now, I’m afraid by choosing “voters” as my 2012 People of the Year, I don’t have one person or set of people to introduce to you. That’s because you already know him or her: you.
Really, I could have just titled this column “You Are My People of the Year.”
It is through your voices and your votes that the most change has or will be made here. That is certainly the case in Camden. While voters split pretty evenly among both candidates and issues, the slight majority rules and wins the day. So, we have a new mayor, a new councilwoman and no sports complex. You can be happy about that, or upset about it, but you have to accept that set of facts as reality.
Either way, channel your emotions appropriately: show up at city council meetings; speak during those meetings’ public forum periods; write to council and the mayor; write letters to the editor to me here at the C-I. By “appropriately,” I’m merely expressing a hope that we can be a bit more civil here in Camden than we were the last two years. It was pretty brutal and I think we’re all exhausted.
Let’s start afresh, shall we?
As for Kershaw County Council, we have a new council member starting soon. That change came through the power of your votes (those of you in Kershaw County Council District No. 1, anyway).
We also still have an intact Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). That was due to your voices -- many of them, and heard loud and strong earlier this year when council tried to offer us a ballot question that would have created a new county police force. In fact, so many of you showed up for the meeting it was supposed to be voted on that no one on council even made a motion to consider it.
On the other hand, the Kershaw County School District is still among the lowest third in the state when it comes to local funding. In a bit of irony, that is due to, perhaps, too loud voices that rose above others. Still, whether or not I agree isn’t relevant to my assertion that you, the voters, made your feelings known -- and county council, for yet another year, voted not to include a millage increase for the school district. My hope is that far more voices will continue to decry the unfairness of Act 388 to our legislative delegation and speak more loudly -- in print, in person or at the polls -- to education finance reform.
Speaking of education, we have a number of new school board members that have taken their seats. Again, this is due to your votes.
It will be interesting to see what new directions they take as we all continue to work hard to make our children’s education the best it can be. Even if you don’t have children in the public school system, this is important. Why? Because time and time again, it’s been proven that a well-educated workforce attracts industry and business. That adds to the tax base, enriching the entire county.
As with city and county council, there are ways you can express yourself to the school board. Do so -- it can’t hurt and, after all, you elected them.
On a wider scale, we have some new members of our legislative delegation, as district lines were redrawn in recent years. That will certainly have an impact as we continue to vie for a part of the state budget pie.
And then, of course, there was this year’s presidential election.
Now, I’m quite aware that this county swung harder for Mitt Romney than it did for President Barack Obama. To those of you that voted for Mr. Romney, I applaud the simple fact that you voted at all. Far too often, voting rates have been down -- we need every one of you who are eligible to vote to do so, every time.
To those of you that supported the president, cheers to you, as well. You are part of both the slim popular majority and the overwhelming electoral majority that reelected President Obama.
Someone pointed out recently that perhaps the split among American voters -- and even here at home in Kershaw County and, especially, Camden -- isn’t so much about the divisions, but about an overwhelming cry for cooperation and compromise.
That is the art of politics, after all.
America is not all white. Projections are that guys like me are going to be in the minority pretty soon. So be it. I, for one, like to celebrate our melting pot culture. However, that melting pot sure has a lot more ingredients. Well, not really, they’ve always been there -- we just didn’t always recognize them for what they are.
There are the rich, the poor, the middle class; white, black, Hispanic, Asian and more; lesbian, homosexual and others; Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, Democrat, Green Party... the list goes on.
All of these are America. All of these are, or at least have the potential to be, voters.
And if we all, figuratively speaking, sit down in a room together and just get to know each other, I think we’ll find we have far more in common than we think. After all, we are human beings (last time I checked), we live in America and we love our country.
We love our country because we have the freedom to vote for whom we choose without reprisal. All we have to do is exercise that right, that responsibility.
The old saying goes that if you didn’t vote, you can’t complain. That’s true; at least I believe that.
So, to all of you who voted in this year’s elections, who voiced your opinions however you did, I salute you. Without a doubt, you are my People of the Year.