Michael Ryan

Big Fort Worth, Arlington elections start April 22. Your research can start here

I did one of those Person on the Street interviews last year just out of curiosity, asking passersby how they decide whom and what to vote for.

It was a little horrifying, honestly. Most seemed more than a little unsure how they decide. The most common answer was social media. One respondent proudly proclaimed she doesn’t vote.

Few folks will likely look to an endorsement when considering whom to vote for as president. We’re simply bombarded with news and opinion on that and other national- and even state-level offices 24/7, 365 days a year. But what about local elections? CNN and Fox News aren’t covering your city council race.

And consider that your vote in such local elections is much more important and influential than in a presidential race. You and your friends and neighbors are infinitely more likely to sway the outcome in a local election, for one thing. For another thing, the actions and decisions of local officials are much more liable to impact your life.

I’d also argue that the health of our republic depends on an engaged grassroots that is fertilized at the local level.

It so happens this region is seeing some of its most important elections May 4 — early voting for which begins Monday. Races include mayors and council members in Fort Worth and Arlington, as well as the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education and the powerful and far-reaching Tarrant Regional Water District.

Such elections typically attract turnout in the single digits, which is two or three notches below “anemic.”

I’d love to see you change that. And I’d implore you to not sit this one out. Again, while it may not boast the buzz and star-power of even last fall’s midterm elections, it is no less important — and arguably more so for your family and friends. It will go a long way toward shaping your world, including your roads and other infrastructure as well as city policies that impact crime, poverty, race relations, community amenities, taxes and your family budget.

You will, in short, be setting your city’s course for years to come.

But whom to vote for?

May I suggest looking to your local newspaper?

We’ve put together an online Voters Guide with tons of information about candidates for city council and mayor in both Fort Worth and Arlington, Fort Worth ISD board trustees and members of the water district board. The guide includes the candidates’ answers, in their own words, to questions posed by Star-Telegram reporters.

You can find a link to our online Voters Guide on top of our home page, www.star-telegram.com.

In addition, the Star-Telegram Editorial Board has published its recommendations in races for Fort Worth mayor and council; Arlington mayor; Fort Worth ISD board seats; and the two available seats on the Tarrant Regional Water District board.

There was a time when I, like many, questioned the propriety and value of newspaper endorsements. Through much thought, debate and years of interactions, I answered those questions in my own mind decades ago, and here’s where I landed: We in the editorial writing business are in a highly privileged position from which we can meet and take the measure of elected officials and candidates for public office. It’s my view that we’d be remiss sitting on our hands and not sharing our observations on the Opinion page. It’s also what leadership, which an opinion page aspires to, demands.

Nor can I tell you how seriously and studiously my colleagues and I take the responsibility.

We couldn’t get to every race we wanted to. But I don’t think I’ve ever worked any harder than this election cycle, when we met at length, one at a time, with nearly 40 candidates in the above elections.

But we didn’t stop there, either. Some races called out for more sleuthing, so we checked records and archives and conducted interviews with others in the know to make sure we made the best possible recommendations we could.

Then the editorial board met to go over each race and each candidate and, after several days of meetings, came to a consensus on our endorsements — without pride or prejudice, and with the region’s best interests at heart.

We offer our recommendations not in the spirit of “telling” anyone whom to vote for, but in the hope that our considered opinions will help you navigate a crowded field of office-seekers. I think it’s one of the most vital things a local newspaper can do.

I just wanted you to know what went into it.

The Star’s Michael Ryan, a Kansas City native, is an award-winning editorial writer and columnist and a veteran reporter, having covered law enforcement, courts, politics and more. His opinion writing has led him to conclude that freedom, civics, civility and individual responsibility are the most important issues of the day.