Passive Activist #9

We Americans are living with an unprecedented absence of leadership. In the Deep South, we have lived with this void for most of our history, so we’re a little more used to it than the rest of the nation— but that doesn’t make it OK. In the face of Congressional deadlock, soaring national debt, secular/religious strife, rogue policy actions by state legislatures, mistrust of the police, declines in public education funding, exorbitant college costs, internet predators and trolls, crumbling labor unions, global warming, and some psycho who machine-guns a hundred people in a gay nightclub, the Passive Activist series offers ideas for how ordinary people can create and implement positive change in our own lives. Movements are made up of people.

9. Attend a regular City Council meeting.

You don’t have to get up and speak, just go. Too many people only go to City Council meetings when they have an issue on the agenda, to argue a point, or to resolve to a personal issue. But it’s good for any citizen to head down to City Hall and see what’s going on, too. Someone may raise an issue that you agree should be taken seriously, and if local news reporters don’t cover it, you may never even know that it came up.

Another good reason to go to City Council meetings is to find out what your councilperson is voting for or against, and what resolutions he or she is sponsoring. If you go to a couple of meetings, you may find that your representative doesn’t represent you at all. That would be handy to know in the voting booth the next time those names appear on the ballot.

Third, a substantial audience in those meetings keeps the council members honest. We all watch our mouths and check ourselves when people are watching, and politicians are no different. Leaders having to work out in the open, facing the people they represent is good for democracy— it’s better for democracy than all the flag-waving and party-bashing that TV news pundits or policy wonks could ever do.

Many people regard “politics” as only referring to the Presidency and Congress. A few more understand it also to mean their state legislature or assembly. But the real nitty-gritty of daily life where you live— that stuff gets hashed out at City Council and County Commission meetings. Local ordinances and budgets are of no concern to Barack Obama or Paul Ryan, but their outcomes mean a great deal to the people who have to live with them.

Local councils and assemblies have to make their meeting times and agendas public. Go see what’s going down in your neck of the woods.

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