Chat with friends and family about the May elections, the issues that are important to you, and where the candidates stand. Credit: GA Media for AARP

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These days, it can be hard to cut through the noise. I’ve found myself asking, how can we make ourselves heard? How do we send a clear message about what’s important to us? How do we make our mark on the world?

The answer is clear to me: By voting.

Voting is the one way I know to send a loud, clear, and unambiguous message about what I want the world to look like today and in the future – for myself, for my kids, and, God willing, for my grandkids.

Last fall, San Antonians flocked to the polls. High-profile congressional races contributed to the turnout, but another factor also contributed: Three highly contested amendments to the city charter. It can be easy to be drawn into high-profile elections on the national stage, but local elections are also incredibly important because the outcomes influence our daily lives in many tangible ways.

In talking with thousands of San Antonians over the last five years since San Antonio joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, I’ve identified four major areas that matter to San Antonians: transportation, housing, employment, and health.

How can the city ensure that transit routes are accessible and well-timed throughout the city?

How can access to home maintenance and rehabilitation be improved, so all San Antonians can stay in their homes as they get older?

How can we help San Antonians access training and information to keep their job skills relevant, aiding in employment opportunities?

How can we be sure that all neighborhoods have safe spaces for exercise and community activities?

As San Antonians, we can only have our say on these issues if we do the research, hear what the candidates have to say, and then take our opinions to the polls. That’s why AARP is teaming up with NOWCastSA and GA Media to bring a mayoral forum focused on these very issues and moderated by San Antonio Express-News columnist Elaine Ayala to San Antonio on Tuesday, April 9, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Palo Alto College Performing Arts Center. You’re invited to come on out; the debate will also be live-streamed for your convenience.

Unfortunately, most registered voters will not make their opinions heard. Even though November’s election had uncommonly high turnout, only half of the registered voters in Bexar County voted. May elections are when we elect our mayor, and traditionally fewer voters come out. In fact, only around 7 percent of registered voters participated in the mayoral elections at the start of the decade.

One demographic in particular does make it to the polls, however, and that’s the older voter. San Antonians aged 50-plus make up 39 percent of the voting-age population in our city, yet 67 percent of voters who cast a ballot in the last mayoral election were aged 55-plus.

So candidates running for office this May would do well to listen to the concerns of the older voters, as they’ll likely be the ones electing our next leaders. Similarly, I encourage all voters to do their homework. Who really stands up for the issues that matter most to you?

The April 9 mayoral forum at Palo Alto College is hosted by NOWCastSA and sponsored by AARP.

Lisa Rodriguez leads AARP's work in San Antonio.