Think locally, vote nationallyLast weekend at the Art & Wine Festival, while most people were enjoying themselves, two men were seen to get into a screaming match over presidential politics. The argument nearly came to blows before the men were pulled apart.
The upcoming presidential election is one of the most contentious in modern history, in part because so much is at stake. The country is spending billions of dollars per week in Iraq, the economy is in trouble and health care costs are skyrocketing, to name only a few concerns.
Less obvious are the ways in which the new occupant of the White House directly affects the city and people of Mountain View. But make no mistake: Whether the new president is Barack Obama or John McCain could substantially influence Mountain View's economy, environment and schools. Here are some examples of how:
• The next president likely will appoint a new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which decides how aggressively cleanup occurs at sites such as the toxic TCE plume at Moffett Field.
"It's very likely that Obama's EPA would be much more protective for things like TCE cleanup," said Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. "EPA staff have been told they can't do what they want for political reasons. As for McCain, what I hear from people in Arizona is that he hasn't paid much attention to these issues."
Siegel also said a Democratic president probably would be more accessible to the local congressional representatives trying to save Moffett's Hangar One. However, McCain's history with the Navy may make him partial to restoring the historic structure as well.
• People at City Hall are keeping a close watch on the economy, which has major impacts on city revenue sources.
"Anybody who can improve the national economy is going to be good for Mountain View," said city manager Kevin Duggan.
Duggan said the new president's views on federal housing programs and community development block grants, or CDBGs, also will be important to the city, which channels these funds to numerous programs and services. Typically, a Democrat is more amenable to handing out federal funds for community services.
• Local educators question how productive the federal No Child Left Behind legislation has been, and say the next president has a lot of work to do in fixing the country's educational system.
NCLB was signed into effect in 2001 in the hopes of improving public primary and secondary education by establishing accountability at the local levels through testing and benchmarks. Although it looks good on paper, the legislation sets unreasonable goals in a small timeframe. This can be counterproductive in a city like Mountain View, which has a large percentage of Latino and low-income students.
Educators say they agree with the concept of accountability, but want a system that will work. Although neither candidate addresses NCLB head-on, Obama's education plan calls for a multi-billion-dollar increase — with a focus on "high-needs schools" — while McCain's much flimsier plan calls for little increase in funding. We believe Obama will pay closer attention to this issue, which affects every Mountain View resident.
According to our calendars, this Thursday, Sept. 11, was "Patriot Day." It's a fitting day to consider the direction we're headed, since the attacks of seven years ago have permanently altered the course of our nation. When you go to the polls on Nov. 4, think closely on what you want out of your government. A lot is at stake, even locally.