Hide   Volume
The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Expert and Student Encourage Involvement in Local Politics


Photo credit: Communicator archive

Written by: Communicator StaffOctober 28, 2015

Written by Bernadette Becker

Nov. 3 marks the mayoral election for Fort Wayne. On campus, Professor Andrew Downs gave some insight into the nature of municipal elections and Mark Cullnane explained the Public Policy Student Association.

Downs is the director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, which is Indiana’s first nonpartisan center that aims to help Hoosiers comprehend the impact of politics on their lives, according to its website, www.mikedownscenter.org.

For the upcoming election, incumbent Democrat Tom Henry is running against Republican candidate Mitch Harper. As Downs explained, though, municipal elections are usually the lowest turnouts of all. He defined municipal office as positions such as city clerk, mayor, city or town council, or clerk/treasurer; it also means that only those within the incorporated boundaries of the city or town may vote.

The lack of competitive races, Downs posited, can make voter turnout worse.

“For example, New Haven and Monroeville in Allen County do not even have elections this year because none of the races are contested,” Downs said.

He said Indiana has most of its city and town elections the year preceding a presidential election. The issues surrounding municipal elections typically differ from those that are important in the presidential elections. Downs gave examples such as the response time of public safety officials, regular trash pickup and road maintenance as the issues that are often key to municipal elections.

“There are different ways to provide these services, but those differences do not align neatly with party affiliation the way issues like abortion and gun control do,” Downs said when explaining how local elections are mainly less partisan.

For Mark Cullnane, primary contact and president of the Public Policy Student Association, politics are less about party lines and more about civic engagement.

“In a representative democracy the public has a duty to be engaged in the political process,” said Cullnane, who noted that being informed is key to becoming active in civic affairs.

The PPSA does not claim political affiliation. As a departmental organization, it aims to involve public policy students in local public and nonprofit organizations through networking and volunteering to promote understanding for the value of public service, Cullnane said.

“Our ability to be engaged and take part in this process is significantly impacted by the information we consume on a daily basis,” said Cullnane, emphasizing the need to use media to become a more engaged, educated citizen.

PPSA had been defunct, but it was rechartered in the Fall 2014 semester, according to Cullnane. Membership can be either voting (any IPFW student in at least one credit hour) or nonstudent (staff, faculty, community members and IPFW alumni) and it has dues of $5 per semester.

Cullnane explained that interested individuals could contact PPSA through their Facebook page or via email to one of the four officers: Cullnane, Erica Weeks, Nick Jacobs or Stacy Preston.