Politics Downtown

It’s 2024 which means two things are for certain: we get a bonus day and an election! Ironically, by the time our bonus day rolls around, most of us will have already had our fill of talking heads and doomsday commercials surrounding the political campaigns.

As for Leap Year, there are always fun promotions, sales, and events that can happen around a leap year – a holiday that is ready-made for trampoline manufacturers. The latter, however, can be more challenging.

Navigating the political discussions as Main Streeters can be a high-wire act. Certainly, we all know which candidates at the state, local, and federal level will be most beneficial to our organization’s mission and the projects we’re trying to accomplish, but how vocal should we be in supporting a candidate? This is where most of us come to the fork in the road.

Our first path would be to remain neutral. This is a path that many of us choose or are mandated (based on your organization’s structure) to take. Remaining neutral isn’t without its challenges. Most of our districts are the heart of our communities, which means so many political rallies and events happen within our borders – which can often correlate to people thinking that our organizations are supporting one candidate or another.

Walking the fine line between advocacy for issues and political campaigning can be especially challenging throughout this year. Thinking about things like the colors we’re using on a flyer can have unintended implications for us or our organization.

The primary objective of this path is to not endorse or support any particular candidate or party. Oftentimes that means our organizations avoid the subject altogether. For many of us (especially if we are a part of a city government), this is not only preferred but required by law.

The second path is to roll up our sleeves and get involved, either personally or professionally. There are numerous Main Streeters who volunteer for political campaigns in some fashion and some that are candidates.

For those who choose this path, there is often another decision about how active or vocal the organization is in comparison to the individual. It’s important to note that even when the individual is involved, it will likely be seen as support from the organization.

While this can have a large upside if the candidate(s) the organization is supporting wins, it can also have consequences if that candidate loses and the opposing candidate doesn’t want to work with someone who was so vocal in support of their rival.

Regardless of which path your organization and you personally choose to take, it’s important to make sure your board of directors is supportive and on the same page. Having conversations early in the year (before that bonus day), will help ensure there aren’t any surprises later in the year as we inch closer to casting our ballots – which is something that we strongly encourage you to do. As community developers, we must participate (and encourage others) to have their voices heard.