Dr. Eileen Lynch
10. Local Governments in
Explain five ways to participate in local government.
Based on personal experience, I know that sometimes as a citizen one feels a severe disconnection with our governing bodies, whether they are of the local, state or national level. Sometimes one feels as if there is no possibility of ever affecting the direction in which the government steers our city, our county, our state, or even our country. But, in all humility, I must confess that such feelings in me are arisen by a cynicism that tries to mask a great deal of ignorance of the ways in which I could participate in the government at my locality.
Erroneously, many people like me believe that the only possible way to participate in local government is to become part of the government itself. It is always a daunting prospect to consider becoming a public figure. The negative connotations abound, and it is rather easy to be misled by stereotypes concerning the disposition and morality of politicians. However, it is possible for any American citizen to run for any public office (depending on certain qualifications), and at a local level one might be surprised to find oneself elected by neighbors to represent them in their local government. This is the most obvious way to participate in local government.
But if public office is not part of one’s aspirations, there are other duties in local governments that can be manned by a qualified person. The textbook offers the possibility of holding a job as part of the management of any city’s public departments, like the office of City Manager, for example. Although the road seems long and tortuous, and although it would require one to attain advanced academic degrees and to secure a succession of prestige-enhancement jobs, it could very well result in one holding a major office available in local government without having to become a politician per se.
Also, the textbook suggests that one attends a public hearing and speak out. Surely, one has seen flyers, publication advertisements, or even utility bill inserts announcing an upcoming public hearing featuring some matter of local importance. If one has seen those notices, one can be certain that the matter open for debate concerns one’s surroundings directly. For example, a neighbor may want to rent out a parcel of his land to a wireless telephone company in order to erect a repeater tower, precisely next to one’s own property! Clearly, the matter is of direct concern and should be addressed. One should research the facts and, if necessary, ask for help in presenting one’s opposition at the hearing.
Another textbook suggestion involves volunteering to work for a local candidate during an election. At first, this might not seem to be of large consequence in the scheme of things. As a matter of fact, by all appearances it might only benefit the candidate in question. But once one becomes involved with one candidate, one is also representing one’s own household in supporting said candidate. Many people will not express their support or approval publicly unless it is for someone they know directly, and by looking at one’s example they might in turn feel motivated to get involved. Involvement often leads to deeper participation. In this case, the participation expected is the act of voting. By volunteering one’s efforts for a chosen candidate, one would be affecting the way other people cast their vote, thus affecting the government directly.
The video lesson tells us that another way of participating in local government is by being part of the business leadership in the community. For example, in
Perhaps none of these opportunities for participation in local government are appealing or possible for some of us. But the fact remains that the government is for the people, by the people, and one should really participate.