Columnist Geoff Daily explores Lafayette’s economy and government, providing critical commentary about what’s working and what’s not.

Got $300? Run for something

Illustration of a blue thumb up

“Government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

Thomas Jefferson

Every four years the city and parish of Lafayette determine who gets to control how our money is spent. More accurately: The registered voters who decide to show up to vote get to decide. Even more accurately still: The registered voters who show up get to pick between the registered voters who decided to put their names on the ballot. 

So really it’s not the community as a whole that decides our future; it’s the people who care enough to show up and actively participate in our democracy.

To this end I wanted to point something out that I think a lot of people aren’t aware of: It only costs $300 to put your name on the ballot to have a chance at determining how nearly $3 billion of our tax dollars get spent over the next four years.

Now, if you don’t run a real campaign, your chances of winning are likely low. If you don’t knock on doors, and raise money, and put up campaign signs, send out mailers, attend or organize events, rally volunteers and buy advertising, your odds of winning are low.

And it’s understandable why so few people put themselves out there to try and win an election. Because you can invest a ton of time and energy, and even if you do everything right you still might not win. And depending on who you’re running against, elections can get nasty, with personal attacks and strained friendships.

But you don’t have to actually do any of those things. You don’t have to go around kissing the rings of donors. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on advertising and signs. You don’t have to mobilize an army of volunteers. Technically, you could literally just pay the $300 to get your name on the ballot and that’s it.

There are a lot of people frustrated with our local government who feel like there’s nothing they can do to change it. That there’s some velvet rope that only gives certain people the opportunity to sit in the seats of power. But that’s simply not the case.

Anyone can put their name on the ballot. Anyone can win an election to become our next mayor-president or council representative. Anyone reading this right now has the ability to step up and make their mark on the future of our community.

There’s no reason for you to sit on the sidelines, even if running isn’t your thing. You can make a difference by giving your time, money and influence to support the candidates you believe in the most. At the local government level, every hour and every dollar — and every vote  — counts. 

On top of that, every candidate we elect into office counts too. 

Five City Council members determine what happens with LUS and LUS Fiber and city parks and roads and drainage and the police and fire departments and so much more. Five Parish Council members determine what happens with roads and drainage and the jail and the courthouse and so much more. One mayor-president is in charge of every LCG employee, sets the agenda of every annual budget, and actually spends those dollars that the councils authorize.

Local government isn’t like state or federal government, with hundreds of elected officials tripping over themselves. 

Literally 11 people determine how $700 million is spent every year.

So why can’t one of those eleven people be you? Or, if you’re not ready to put your hat in the ring, why can’t one of those 11 people be someone you believe in and are willing to work to help get elected?

Because in this fall’s elections, it’s not just every vote that counts. It’s every person who decides they want to make a difference to improve our community. Is that future worth $300 to you?