The election is over. Those of you that took part voiced your opinion at the voting booth.
That’s step one. Step two is not letting your voice go silent until the next election cycle, which will arrive in 2018.
We live not only in a divisive world, but also in a divisive country. And, sadly, there are signs that even our state is shifting from what has always been a nonpartisan Legislature to one where party affiliation matters more.
Locally, we rely on those we elect to city, county and school offices to handle the issues that come before them. They shouldn’t be expected to go it alone. It’s our job as citizens to communicate with them. And not just when you think they did something wrong.
It’s easy to react to a decision a local board has made. But by then it’s too late. The best time to let your thoughts be known is before the vote is taken.
The recent request for West Point’s City Council to allow for paved paths along some city right-of-ways and in and around Wilderness and Neligh parks is a good example of how local government should work. There was an invitation – made through the local media – for the public to attend a city council meeting to learn about the project, and there was plenty of time for input from the public and council that led to changes.
Not all were happy with the final decision, but none can say they were denied a chance to have their voices heard.
The public also has opportunities to listen and speak up about local government budgets on other important issues. Those issue are all dealt with at public meetings, and the budget meetings, by law, are noted in advance in the newspaper through legal notices. We also share information in stories about when budget workshops and budget hearings are scheduled.
Another way to let your local officials know how you feel is with a letter to the editor. We’ve talked to people who say they would like to write one but fear having people take issue with what they say. We’ve asked some of those who have had letters published in this paper, and we haven’t heard of anyone being attacked for stating their opinion.
One of the recent letters to the editor suggested it was time to “clean house,” pertaining to voting out all the current office holders. Which leads to another way to get involved: run for office. Too often on the local level we’re lucky to have one candidate for each office. The more candidates that run, the more people pay attention and get involved.
We don’t have a magic bullet to help engage more citizens in decision-making process. But doing so ensues the transparency and accountability of elected officials that so many say government is lacking.