There has been quite a debate this week, especially across social media, around the issue of whether the City of Gardendale should ban short-term home rentals in residential neighborhoods.
For the most part, the discussion has been civil and reasoned on both sides, which is refreshing.
For the record, I see both sides. However, as someone who inherently believes in local democracy and the will of the people, I began to think about whether the debate really matters at all as to how the issue is decided?
Local politics is like a loaf of bread. I am a capitalist and believe that competition greatly benefits the consumer.
I was recently in Walmart and when I got to the bread aisle it was a sea of everything bread. Different kinds of hamburger buns, hotdog buns, loaf bread…all kinds of bread.
That’s capitalism and it drives competition for the consumer and leads to better products and better pricing.
Instead, what if I would have gotten to the Walmart bread aisle and there was just bread from one sole company?
What would that loaf of bread cost and what would it taste like?
It wouldn’t matter if I liked the way the bread was made because I have no choice. The company can make it how they want and charge $15 a loaf if they want.
I can take it or leave it…but they wouldn’t care, because enough folks want bread, and they are the only game in town.
Local Gardendale politics is a lot like that.
In the 2020 local elections, the mayor ran unopposed. Four of the five city councilmen ran unopposed. Fact checkers can check me, but the one contested race for Gardendale City Council District 1 had a vote total of less than 210.
In some of the conversations I have had with non-political folks, the upcoming 2024 local elections will find that the mayor and all 5 councilmen (unless one or more choose not to run for reelection) will all run unopposed.
That’s like $15 bread from one company. No competition. And just like one bread choice would be bad for consumers, having no competition in local elections is poor for democracy and the will of the people.
It’s, effectively, unchecked power.
Fresh ideas and innovation are good for capitalism and local politics.
This is no indictment on the folks currently in office and the job they do in their service to the city. It’s no fault of theirs that they run unopposed. They are willing to put themselves out there and that should be applauded.
But unchecked power, through no competition, leads to not having to worry about answering for how you voted on an issue during the next election.
So, Gardendale really just has one choice on the bread aisle unless more candidates throw their hats into the ring and drive competition for ideas and votes.
Competition is always better for the health and growth of a city, and is also better for all voices being heard.
The good news is that there is still time for one or more to decide to run for office in 2024 to provide Gardendale a choice.
I am wondering if some in Gardendale may be ready for more options on the bread aisle?