08/13/09 — Crucial to know: Now more than ever, citizens cannot afford to be uninformed

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Crucial to know: Now more than ever, citizens cannot afford to be uninformed

Some people say they do not have time to read.

After all, they have busy lives, many demands on their time and children with even busier schedules than they do.

So some people are turning away from keeping track of what their community leaders are doing, let alone what Congress is concocting.

But now is the time when paying attention and making the time to follow what is going on in your community is vital -- even critical -- to your family's future.

If you don't pay attention, changes will be made to your life -- and to your children's lives -- without your input. You will not know what tax rate you will pay or how many teachers will be in your child's school. You will not have a say in whether there will be a new recreation center in the city -- or if a convention center will be built here. You will not have a voice in what money will be spent downtown or in the roads or development plans that might affect your property value or your ability to upgrade your home.

You will not have a say because you will not even know any of the proposals are happening until after the decisions have been made. And then, it will be too late.

And local news is not the only area where you need to pay attention.

The state increased taxes by $1 billion this year -- and families with combined incomes of $100,000 were affected, along with those who buy cigarettes as well as others who make other purchases every day.

And the state almost lost thousands of teaching jobs in the budgeting process -- a fact that could have affected the quality of education your children receive -- and your ability to buy or sell a home.

All that happened in a blink of an eye.

If you want to make sure you direct the future of your state next year, you have to pay attention and to make sure your legislators are doing the job they promised.

And then there is the federal government. So far away it seems sometimes, but how much of an impact it makes on your day-to-day existence. The schools your children attend, the services you expect and the retirement funds you are watching closely are all affected by the decisions that are made in Washington.

It is not possible to be an expert on every issue -- and there is no way to absorb every detail that comes out of state, local and federal governments. That would be a full-time job. But the days of sailing along and waiting for someone else to do the work are over -- especially if you want to safeguard the future of your family.

A few minutes a day -- and encouraging the habit in your children as well -- might be one of the smartest investments you will make in protecting your livelihood and the opportunities your children and grandchildren will have when they are adults.

For too long, too many of us have let others make our choices for us.

Now is the time to get information we need and to set the course for our country that we see as the most wise and prudent.

Americans are lucky to have access to the information about their leaders and their government in the form of a free and open press.

Now is the time to take advantage of that right -- and to make sure we have the country we want, not the one others choose for us.

Published in Editorials on August 13, 2009 11:00 AM