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As a student of the American political scene, I fear that too many voters – including this one – suffer from “local attention deficit disorder” or “local ADD.” It is, in short, the tendency to pay more attention – to care more about – what happens in Washington than what happens in Jefferson City, or St. Louis...or some other seat of state or local government.
Yes, we are creatures who grow easily bored with things small and familiar. And often, nothing seems smaller or more familiar than the events in our own backyard. So I’m not surprised we would rather know what Barack Obama is doing than what Jay Nixon or Charlie Dooley or Francis Slay are up to.
But I also suspect the Nixons and Slays and Dooleys of this world – by virtue of their proximity to us – are more likely to impact our daily lives than President Obama ever will. And for that reason, I think there is a great risk for local ADD, to ignoring the events in our own backyard.
Aaron Hilman understands this. Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger recently shared Aaron’s story – telling us how Aaron was alarmed about tax increases in the Mehlville fire district; how he ran and won a seat on the district’s board; how he and others overcame one obstacle after another to limit the board’s power to impose taxes.
I can only hope Aaron Hilman’s story inspires more of us to pay attention to what’s going on in our state, cities, and neighborhoods. It’s high time we all sought treatment for our respective cases of local ADD.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Pete Abel is a public affairs executive. He serves on the boards of Stages St. Louis and the Greater Missouri Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association. Previously, he served as managing editor of the political blog “The Moderate Voice.” His career started in 1985, first as a freelance reporter and later as a full-time staff writer for the St. Louis Suburban Journals, covering municipal politics and local businesses.