Rock everyone’s vote

Wednesday night an event being called “Rock the Local Millennial Vote,” primarily sponsored by Mount Airy Downtown Inc., is taking place at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

The event is a candidate’s forum focused on the upcoming Mount Airy municipal elections, with a primary set for Oct. 6 and the general election on Nov. 3. The forum, according to information released by Mount Airy Downtown (MAD) Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison, has commitments from all 11 city candidates to attend.

While the organization welcomes all age groups, the event is clearly geared toward the interests of the so-called millennials (known in some circles as generation Y), those individuals who have reached adulthood over the past 15 years or so. As with all generations, their outlook on life, their interests, their beliefs in how society should look and be run — and government’s role in that — is different from preceding generations.

So, at least locally, these folks — working primarily through Mount Airy Downtown and the Mount Airy Professionals of Surry — are putting on this forum as a way for individuals to hear from the candidates, and for the candidates to hear what is of interest to the local folks of this generation.

Unfortunately, there have been some in the community who have been critical of this effort, or at least questioning of the motives. That’s puzzling, because we think it an encouraging sign that there is a coordinated effort to get folks of this age group more involved in the political process. The folks putting on this event should be praised, rather than criticized.

We realize all of this happens against the backdrop of the ongoing city redevelopment commission controversy — and we’ve been right in the middle of the criticism aimed at the redevelopment commission and MAD’s role in that — but we have nothing but praise and admiration for the work they’ve done in putting together this candidate forum.

The individuals in this age group, at least the ones stepping up and trying to take leadership roles in the community, are passionate about what they believe, energetic in expressing those beliefs, and hard-working in putting those beliefs into action.

Over time we suspect they will learn some of the finer nuances of politics and leadership, that not everything has to be either/or, that there’s room for everyone to benefit even when individuals disagree on the path a community should take. With the redevelopment controversy, for instance, we hope over time all will realize there’s ample opportunity for progressive, meaningful redevelopment and economic growth while still respecting private property rights, respecting others whose opinion differs from yours, all within the framework of open, transparent government that keeps focused on the needs of all it serves.

With regard to Wednesday’s forum, we commend the folks involved for organizing the event. Traditionally the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce has put on candidate forums, even before primaries. The chamber’s director told us this year they simply didn’t have time, and that while they are leaning toward putting on a candidate forum after the primary, they simply weren’t going to do one before (though they did agree to sign on to be a co-sponsor for Wednesday’s event).

So Mount Airy Downtown, with a group of hard-working volunteers, stepped into the void and are meeting a community need, and in the process are hopefully getting more local young people engaged in the political process.

We hope residents of all age groups turn out for the forum. It’s open to everyone, and is likely the only time all 11 candidates will be together, interacting with the public, giving their take on where they would like to see Mount Airy moving over the next four years.

Mount Airy Downtown and the Mount Airy Professionals of Surry have done their part to pull this together. Now do your part: attend the forum, take part in making it a meaningful public dialogue, and then go to the polls Oct. 6 to cast your vote.

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