Most people can predict, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that the sun will rise each day. Equally easy to foretell was the low voter turnout in Tuesday's city sales tax election in Tahlequah.
Tahlequah is home to around 17,000 souls, though a good chunk of them are under 18. Of those old enough to vote, 7,756 are registered, and yet only 540 cast ballots. The purported reason for the low numbers brings to mind another prophesy made by the well-informed, prior to every local election: "I didn't know about it!"
As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it. That's also the case for information. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and social media platforms, along with advocates and proponents of an issue, can generate an almost endless cycle of data, but they cannot force the public to consume it.
Tuesday's vote on the sales tax was discussed a number of times in the Tahlequah Daily Press: in news stories, opinion pieces, press releases from the city and Election Board, and Mayor Sue Catron's column. A Saturday Forum was also hosted on the TDP Facebook page, which has more than 26,500 followers. That doesn't even scratch the surface, though; city officials also talked about the tax initiative on their personal social media timelines, as well as the city's own Facebook page. It was mentioned in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter, and no doubt by local radio stations, as well as other news sources. A quick online search will reveal several dozen mentions of this sales tax proposal, going back from May.
Yet TDP and sales tax proponents have already been accused of trying to "hide" the election. There may be cause for cynicism, because many years ago, an attempt was made by advocates of a bond issue to tamp down publicity. The idea was that if few knew about the election, only those who favored the bond would vote. But that marginal attempt at suppression didn't work then, and none of the powers-that-be have pursued a gag order since that time.
Money generated from the sales tax is earmarked for infrastructure. But citizens must keep in mind that some streets have been in bad shape for decades, and it should come as no surprise that in specific areas, progress hasn't occurred at the expected pace. Blaming the current street commissioner, or other current elected officials - and even a few from the past - is pointless. It also speaks to the aforementioned tendency of some individuals not to seek information. The effect is cumulative, not isolated.
Will the sales tax resolve these problems? That's the expectation of advocates. At any rate, TDP and others will be keeping tabs on the projects. That's always been the case, but staying abreast of current events will require of the public both the ability to read and the willingness to do it.
It also means a determination to stay involved. Tahlequah residents should make a concerted effort to get informed, stay engaged, and to vote at every available opportunity. Otherwise, they might have a "right" to gripe, but others may not care what they think.