Hilary Hodge: Getting involved in the political process
November 28, 2016
Elections take place on just a few days every two years. Democracy requires more than just a few days of attention. Since the election, I've had a lot of people ask me about getting involved in the political process.
First and foremost, the best way to get involved in the political process is to start showing up.
The actions our elected officials take shape and change our lives on a regular basis. Locally, the stoplight at Brunswick and Loma Rica in Grass Valley, got put in only after deliberation and a series of decisions. Countywide, Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is looking to put in a dam on the Bear River, creating an 110,000 acre-foot reservoir, flooding the Bear Campground, more than 25 homes and 120 parcels, and the Dog Bar Bridge. On the national level, the farm bill passed in 2014, largely subsidizes rice farmers, keeping prices at the grocery store relatively low for the important staple.
Whether it's a stoplight at a dangerous intersection, NID's proposal to build a 275 foot-tall dam on the Bear River, or the price of rice, what goes on in our political arenas directly affects us and our community.
Whether it’s a stoplight at a dangerous intersection, NID’s proposal to build a 275 foot-tall dam on the Bear River, or the price of rice, what goes on in our political arenas directly affects us and our community.
It is important to show up to meetings and public hearings so that each of us is informed about what our government is up to. Read the publicly noticed agendas that are posted on government websites at all levels of government. Go to meetings.
Nevada City holds council meetings and public information hearings on a regular basis, usually on Wednesdays. There is a calendar on the website. Grass Valley City Council also publishes its meeting schedule on the city's website. The next Grass Valley City Council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. The Nevada County Board of Supervisors meet regularly on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
More often than not, the business of our cities and communities gets passed quietly with very few people bothering to show up and ask questions. Civic engagement is important to help keep our citizens informed, but also to be sure that our elected officials fully understand the issues in front of them. Our elected officials are human and they will make better decisions when those decisions are informed with the help of the community.
In addition to showing up to meetings, it's important to participate. If you have certain interests or an expertise about current issues, get involved. Talk to your elected officials and let them know what you know. Or better yet, serve on a board or committee.
According to a memo released by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in October, there are at least 10 vacancies on several different committees that still need to be filled for our county. While serving on the Sewage Disposal Technical Advisory Group may not be the most glamorous position in public service, active participation is still needed. Information from multiple sources and a well-rounded approach to local issues can go a long way.
Each citizen has access to elected and appointed officials. The phone numbers and other contact information are published on city and county official websites as well as state and national websites. It is possible to call your elected officials and make an appointment to meet to talk about issues facing your community, state, and nation.
Some officials may be more available and willing to listen than others, but voicing your opinion or asking for help on any level of government is not just possible, with access to the internet, most elected officials are just a click away. Additionally, you can program elected officials' phone numbers into your contacts on your cell phone and make a habit of calling them on a regular basis.
It's important to volunteer for local political organizations. Maybe a certain party or organization interests you but you feel that perhaps the platform doesn't entirely align with your values. The only way to see movement within the existing parties or organizations is to show up and work towards something. Complaining will not change the political system. Working towards change can help.
Lastly, do what you can when you can and allow it to be enough. Some days you will go to meetings. Some days you will write letters. Some days you will make phone calls. Some days maybe you show up to a demonstration. Just do whatever it is that you can do.
Hilary Hodge lives in Grass Valley. Her column is published by The Union on Tuesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.