It's not enough to cast ballots, voters also should hold leaders accountable

St. Croix voters wait to enter the D.C. Canegata Recreation Center on Tuesday.

So here we are. Votes have been cast. Decisions have been made. Where do we go from here? It’s the same question we ask every election year.

It is clear that there are many people in very high positions of power who have little regard or concern for people they consider beneath their socio-economic status. It is clear from what they do, and more recently, from what they say. They are quick to say the quiet part out loud now with no fear of reprisal or rebuke.

While it can feel daunting to think about just how much is out of your control in regards to the big issues of the world, it is always important to remember the age-old caveat. All politics are local. We choose our leaders not just to solve the big problems and establish systems for a sting community, but also to fight for us when others would come and try to disrupt our peace.

Most of us know what matters to us. We know what our concerns are: gun violence; the destruction of GERS; WAPA; quality public education; climate change; crime prevention; conscientious development and planning; and varied revenue streams.

These are not new issues. They are areas we have been begging our elected officials to get a handle on and come up with a comprehensive plan for years. Some think we are motivated now than we have ever been to demand these changes. I don’t know. Our ancestors may take issue with that.

Over the course of the generations since we were brought to these shores for free labor, we have made greats strides. Recently, I heard the current generation described as fearless in their approach to social justice. While I certainly see evidence every day of this fearlessness, I don’t presume that they have taken on a battle that until now has been ignored or misunderstood. What I see instead is evidence that each generation pushes back and moves the line of justice. We must respect the work already done and use whatever progress has been made to go further.

So, we are once again here at the end of another election cycle with candidates saying all the right things. The issues we say we care about they say they have put on the front burner. We the voters have given them their jobs and we the people have to be the ones to keep their feet to the fire to truly see those issues addressed.

It is tiring and frustrating to see election cycle after election cycle come and go with the same issues on the ballot. It is the requirement of citizenship however. It is not enough to cast your ballot for your preferred candidate. You have to also hold them to their promises and make them see the needs of your community that need to be addressed.

We have a new Senate ready to be seated. We have boards of elections and education staffed, sometimes by a person who ran unopposed. We know who in our community has said they want to step up and be the leader who tackles some of these issues that we have highlighted again and again as being priorities.

So now what we need to see is decisive action. We need to see leaders be as good as their word and act with the welfare of the people in mind rather than their own aspirations of grandeur. We need to see common sense solutions but also some creative solutions to the problems we face. It is not enough to just say you want to fix things. We need to see that there are new ideas and a willingness to try a new approach.

In addition to leaders who will fight to fix our problems we also need leaders who will fight to support us. Also on the ballot was a referendum to decide on the constitutional convention. Overwhelmingly, the community decided it was time to fully address our status. This is a big issue that could possibly put us at odds with a governing body that has no interest in caring about what we want. That possibility is why we need leaders willing to not only speak truth to power but insist on being heard and included in any process to change or finalize our status.

It is not hyperbole to say that with each passing year it becomes more and more important to have leaders eager to do the people’s work. It also has become increasingly important to have an informed electorate and also an energized electorate that is determined to stay aware, stay involved and stay on top of the elected officials to keep them on the people’s business.

— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at