To the editor: The poll showing a level of voter dissatisfaction with local government similar to how people feel about Washington is extremely telling. ("Politics at the local level pointless? That's what many Californians think," Sept. 12)
People feel (often wrongly) that government spends money on things that don't affect them personally and no money on things that do, like road and sidewalk repair or homeless housing. And they also feel ignored by grandiose plans that seem to make politicians feel good but have small actual constituencies, like adding bike lanes for the small percentage of cyclists at the expense of motorists.
Most of us consider it a minor miracle that the state Legislature did not impose the 50% gasoline cut last week, and the governor has made it clear he intends to ignore us as he plows ahead with limits anyway.
I hope elected officials read this poll, but like those polled, I don't think it will make any difference.
Jeffrey C. Briggs, Hollywood
To the editor: I am thrilled to see that The Times is devoting some coverage to local politics and the potential benefit that it might bring to local communities. Unfortunately, I think your article and probably the poll make a crucial error in equating politics and political donations with the function of government.
Donations to candidates pay for campaigns, not government services. Indeed, if these donations resulted in direct benefits to individuals, it would be highly improper.
Instead of asking voters whether their campaign donations have any effect, pollsters and The Times should explore the effectiveness of participating in public meetings, serving on commissions and writing to government officials.
On another note, it would be much more informative and satisfying to read an analysis of how political decision making and public policies are actually shaped by both political contributions and participation, rather than people's uninformed opinions about the responsiveness of government. Feelings are not facts and should not be treated as such.
Sarah Patrick, Berkeley
To the editor: It's not good for the governing of the country or any political entity not to have most eligible voters participate in an election.
A bill passed by the state Legislature would automatically register as a voter any person who renews a driver license and is at least 18 years old. Here's what I suggest adding to that:
Have local election authorities send the names and addresses of voters in the recent election to the DMV. Any licensed driver who failed to vote in that election will have a $100 fine added to the cost of the next annual auto registration. This isn't perfect, but at least it would pressure people to vote.
It's so easy to vote in California that it's a shame most eligible voters do not cast their ballots.
Bob Dickson, Garden Grove