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Local Government and Politics - Meetings are the Challenge - Articles Surfing

There are a couple of problems that exist, which hinder local government from being the best it can be.

One problem that prevents some citizens from attending local government meetings, is the fear of the local elected officials. They are strangers. We don't know them, therefore, we avoid them.

Who is a local elected government official? Let me tell you.

* They are someone who ran for local office, for one reason or another. They give up an enormous amount of time for their 'public service.' They truly want to do a good job.

* They are someone just like you. They have the same family, professional, and money problems that you have.

* They have good days and they have bad days.

* Many of them ran un-opposed. The voters decided that they were better than 'nobody.'

* They are not 'experts' in the field of local government. In extremely small units of government they operate without any 'professional' expertise.

* Their options for solving problems is the 'lesser of two evils.' If you have two good or excellent choices as solutions, you have an opportunity, not a problem. When you have a problem, your choice for solving it, is the 'lesser of two evils.'

* They are amateurs. As amateurs, they make mistakes. They make lots of mistakes. Everyone in public service makes mistakes.

Every good elected official I have ever known, all agree that they would be able to do a better job if more citizens attended meetings and gave their input. Yet, citizens fail to do that, unless and until it is almost too late.

A common complaint of local officials is the the 'public' does not pay attention to issues until the research is far into the process. Public Information Meetings are held. Nobody shows up. The Press reports on the Public Information Meeting and nobody reads the article. Months of Committee Meetings are held discussing possible options and solutions, and nobody listens.

When the issue finally comes to vote, opponents come out of the woodwork claiming the proposal is being 'shoved down their throat.' Tempers flare.

A second reason some citizens won't go to meetings is the fear of not being 'listened' to. There is a big difference between not being listened to and not having local officials agree with you.

* If you play by the rules of the meeting, speak at the appropriate time and have a well prepared statement, you will be listened to. You will be respected.

* If you speak appropriately, and the local officials do not agree with you, that does not mean you were not listened to. What it means is they have a difference of opinion with you. There is a big difference between not being listened to, and not agreeing with you.

So, here are a four suggestions if you wish to become more politically involved at the local level.

1) Attend some meetings just to learn the rules, procedures and players in the local political game. You do not speak at these meetings. You simply learn by observation. You begin to take away the 'fear factor' of not knowing who are local officials.

2) If you believe an issue is important, get involved in the issue at the earliest possible meeting and discussion. The longer you wait to get involved, the less your chance of helping to determine the outcome.

3) When it is time for you to speak on an issue, make sure you know before the meeting, the rules of when to speak, how long you will be allowed to speak and then follow those rules.

4) Write out and PRACTICE your speech. You won't be sorry you did, and neither will the audience who listens to you.

These simple suggestions can go a long way in helping you to become more aware and respected at the local political level.

Copyright 2006 Al Arnold

Submitted by:

Al Arnold

Al Arnold, Local Politics Pontificator, is the author of Moving Mountains and Molehills Local Politics 101. http://WWW.LocalPolitics101.US.



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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