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Winner: Apathy. Loser: Our kids.

When I voted in the School Board election at 9 a.m. yesterday I was voter No. 20. Out of more than 3,000 in the combined election districts at my polling place. It was an intimate gathering - just me and four election workers.

Out of curiosity, I stopped by my polling place on the way home from work to check on the turnout. All of 175.

Well, the results are in, and citywide, only 5 percent of registered voters turned out.

Pathetic.

What does this say about our city's interest in our children, at a time when what we get for spending three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars-a-year is a high school dropout rate of 55 percent, school board members treating themselves to junkets and food spreads before meetings, and the fiasco last year at McKinley High School?

It says the same thing that the city's spending on its schools does. Like city government itself, our schools have become a ward of the state.

People complained about Jimmy Griffin's stinginess towards the schools years ago. Well, folks, in retrospect, those were the good old days. Relatively speaking, of course.

What it all says is we don't really care about our kids.

Yeah, I know, May elections suppress the vote, But there's no getting around the fact only one out of every 20 registered voters did their duty yesterday.

I'll bet a lot more watched Oprah and Sports Center.

I think the turnout also speaks to the state of civic life in the city.

Citizen groups, be they PTAs, block clubs or community based organizations, are withering. Muscular organizations like BUILD are a distant memory.

Yeah, there are a few on the ball, but they are the exception to the rule.

One reason - a big reason - why the politicians get away with murder in this town is that there's not much to keep them in check or hold them accountable.

We're the third-poorest city our size in the nation, and if someone was to measure the vibrancy of our civic life, I'll bet we would fare just as poorly.

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