We often hear how complicated it feels to get involved in a city. Websites are difficult to navigate; information is difficult to find; city meetings for the community are not always promoted to the actual neighbors they serve; how will my voice, my vote, my presence make a difference anyway?
Your voice matters. Your presence in your neighborhood matters. Decision makers in our cities actually care what you think, and we’ve learned that they are willing to listen to the people, if the people show up to their stuff. So, let’s help you find all the stuff! Here’s three ways to engage in your community:
JOIN A COMMUNITY BOARD
In every district, there are various ways to serve as a citizen. Do you feel strongly about racial reconciliation and community policing? Try attending your local police station’s monthly community meeting. At almost every one of these, there are Senior Lead Officer’s present, who usually oversee and attend Neighborhood Watch meetings as well. There is also a city council representative present, a first or second deputy. And neighbors you don’t know yet, who may have some of your same concerns. Or maybe you have a passion for community events and forums. How about considering joining a community board, to serve the city council district you belong to? You can help plan the events, and serve the city as a volunteer. Are you passionate about young people and schools? Consider becoming a member of the PTA, or learning what public meetings are open for you. Attend the forums for parents and concerned citizens and ask questions, speak up, engage. If you don’t know your district, google your zip code, city and whatever district you’re curious about – police, city council, neighborhood council, school district.
COMMIT TO VOTING ON A LOCAL LEVEL
Did you know that voting in most urban cities is around 10% of the population? Let’s think about this: If the population is 1,000,000 in your city, that means that 100,000 people are making decisions for themselves and the other 900,000 constituents who didn’t vote. We must take responsibility for our vote, and educate ourselves about those running for city council, city controller, city attorney, mayor, police and fire chiefs, superintendents, judges, as well as any propositions that may directly affect us. Thank goodness, we live in the age of google, and non-biased voting websites are available for us with accurate information for an informed decision. Employers must give you time off to go and vote, and many polling places are open before and after office hours. Don’t be a citizen who only votes for the President, and then complains all year about everything. Do your part to understand and contribute to the decision makers who decide policy that affects our lives deeply and daily.
FAITH BASED OPPORTUNITIES
If you are a person of faith, consider participating in a local clergy council, or a committee within your congregation that is reaching the community. Local government leaders listen to faith based communities, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Catholic or otherwise, and this is a great opportunity to serve the city and meet practical tangible needs within the community. Police departments have clergy councils. The Mayor’s office usually has a faith based appointed representative who champions interfaith relations and works strategically with this community to make a difference. Your faith matters, and can give you the chance to contribute in a meaningful way.
How are you engaging your community civically? We’d love to hear from you and learn from you!