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Oct 11, 201811:51 AMVan Lines

with Joe Vanden Plas

A long overdue civics lesson

(page 2 of 2)

Citing a 2016 Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance survey that found in a recent election, 56 percent of communities had no more than one candidate for each village, town, or city board or council seat, she laments that public service is not at the top of people’s list in terms of career pursuits.

“It was a concern so serious that in some small towns and villages, they had to reconfigure their governing structure and merge with a nearby village or town because they could not fill their seats,” she notes.

Campaign coverage

Noting that newspapers are critical to the civic life of a community, WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett says it’s their role to inform the public and encourage a dialogue. That’s harder to do without competitive political races, so WNA hopes the Civics Games will encourage young people across Wisconsin to become engaged with government on a local and statewide level.

In this inaugural year, local newspapers are sponsoring the teams, but organizers eventually may reach out to local businesses to sponsor teams. Until then, business operators are free to encourage their own children or their customer’s children to get their high schools to register for the games.

“To be honest, I had never thought about reaching out to local businesses to see if they would sponsor teams,” Bennett says, “but that could be a direction that we would want to go. The goal is for this to be an annual event. Based on the response we’ve gotten from anyone we’ve approached, and Eve is out talking to lots of folks, the enthusiasm is just amazing for this. People want to be attached to it. They want to put their names to it.”

Could this contest address the need for more civility than we’ve seen lately in our public discourse? Yes, as a byproduct, Galanter notes. “To the extent that people increase their civic engagement and can speak with one another knowledgeably about an issue, I do believe it encourages civil engagement,” she states. “It’s not something you teach per se, but it is a logical outcome of being more knowledgeable and being able to discuss and disagree on an issue rather than being disagreeable with the person with whom you’re having a conversation.”

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