Local officials want to hear your opinions
Your vote in city and county elections is the most personal and fundamental expression of our democracy. For one thing, the issues in our local elections are usually closer to our daily lives and dearer to our hearts than the decisions made in Washington, D.C. And the people running for local offices are our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends. Once those people get elected, however, they sometimes end up isolated from the conversational loop.
Sometimes local elected officials become “them” instead of “us.” Or maybe it’s more fun to talk about local government than to have a dialog with elected officials that can help shape decisions and make effective changes. Whatever the reason, we often spend more time talking over local issues with friends at the coffee shop than we do with our city and county officials. Besides inviting the mayor over for coffee, here are a few tips to keep the conversation alive here in our community:
- Pick up the phone. One advantage of living in a friendly place like this is that the mayor doesn’t have to keep an unlisted phone number. Give your elected officials a call—and not just to make a complaint, either. If something good happens, let your local government know you think it IS good. And if you’ve got something bugging you, sound off.
- Attend a meeting. The reason those gatherings are called “public meetings” is that they are open to the public. There’s no better way to hold our elected officials accountable—and understand what REALLY goes on in “those meetings”—than taking the time to sit in on a meeting. That gives you the opportunity to ask questions and local government leaders the chance to answer those questions.
- Write a letter. Not a letter to the editor, but a letter to an elected official. It’s hard work to round up stamps and envelopes and pens—and that means every letter carries weight. Most city officials figure that every person who actually takes the time to write a letter speaks for ten or twenty others who didn’t. If you’ve got a point to make, or a complaint to register, pick up your trusty pen or fire up the computer.
It’s all about communication—and the people we elected to positions of trust and responsibility in our community WANT to hear from each of us.