2017-08-31 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Letter writer nails citizen responsibilities
By Paula K. Schmidt

Paula Schmidt — Staff Writer Paula Schmidt — Staff Writer I recently typed up a letter for one of our other local papers where the writer bemoaned her failure in her ‘civic duty’ for never having attended a meeting of a particular board. Her implication, had she done so, was that perhaps she could have been a positive voice of reason bringing about a less contentious conclusion.

I applaud this citizen because, if you know me at all, you know I harp on this as often as I can. A lot of people like to complain about what’s reported in the paper, but they don’t attend meetings, and aren’t given a 500-word limit to condense it down to, either.

People also tend to complain after a board makes a decision, wondering how it ever got so far and what they can do to change it. The letter writer has it right — attend meetings.

I know it’s 2017, and the world is way complicated, and we are all super busy (and I attend because I get paid). But if there were no conflict between those meetings and that of my personal municipality, I would go.

At the very least, being we live in the age of technology, I encourage you to check out your local municipal website where many units of government often pre-publish their meeting agendas, and later, the minutes.

Some changes take more than one meeting, so reading the minutes can reveal items of importance coming up which will be voted on — and need your input.

The official website of the Department of Homeland Security defines civic responsibilities of citizens as: support and defend the Constitution, stay informed of the issues affecting your community, participate in the democratic process, respect and obey federal, state, and local laws, respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others, participate in your local community, and more.

As the letter writer said, while we often trust our local leadership, public servants, and surrounding municipality’s ability to work together for the good of us all, there is a lot to be said for providing the taxpayer’s point of view.

While some issues require public input, such as public hearings, I can personally attest to the lack of participation in those — unless it is something personally affecting a neighborhood such as a street repair or gas station — and sometimes not even then.

Additionally, did you know that most boards and municipalities will accept public input via e-mail and letters (I know, who writes letters? lol). A little searching on most websites will bring up email addresses of those you’ve elected to represent YOUR interests.

In a vacuum of public input, can you truly expect your representatives to have your best interests at heart, or that of the majority of the taxpayers? Most of those I am familiar with do, but to pretend that every subcommittee and board is without their factions and agendas is unrealistic.

In this era of strife and division, and technologically available information, there is no excuse for being uninformed and uninvolved. Do so today.

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