Participation in a democracy should not end with casting a vote.
The last weeks and months have been consumed by politics for much of our nation and it has not always been the Minnesota Nice we have come to expect. While for many life has continued with kids schedules, family traditions and planning for holidays that will be different this year for a variety of reasons, politics has colored even the simple decisions of going out to eat or shop in person at the local business. I have watched and pondered what this all means for the future - not just the future of our country, but the future of our communities. There were certainly a lot of people very interested in local political races for a wide variety of reasons. That is a good thing - local elections and decisions make a big impact on your daily life - good or bad. There were nearly 1400 views of the 5 Candidate forums the chamber recently completed. All the reasons people voted were important. I hope that those who paid attention to the election campaigns don’t stop now.
Participation in a democracy should not end with casting a vote. As a community we need people to engage and become informed of the issues after the votes for a candidate have been cast. The people who have been elected are just people that want to serve and they cannot read your mind about any of the variety of topics and issues that they deal with at every public meeting. They need informed public input. There are some really big decisions that will be made locally in the coming months and years. If you think your vote matters, just think about what being engaged all four years could do for the future of our community. Getting involved means more than voicing an opinion, especially an un-informed opinion. Yes it can be hard to stay on top of the many issues that each elected body must face; it is also hard to live with a decision that doesn’t work for you, your family or your business - choose your hard. Part of the price of living in a democracy is showing up after the ballots are counted – when the real work begins.
If you are interested in staying informed, I recommend the following action steps
- Know what is happening in real time - sign up to receive city council and county board packets or alerts when the agenda is posted - read the agenda for topics of interest
- Show Up - attend meetings where topics of concern are being discussed - you don't have to speak, your presence speaks volumes.
- Get the facts - question exaggerated comments made by those around you - ask your elected official to set the record straight, they have the facts
- Voice your informed opinion - speak up to those who were elected to make the decisions when you don't understand or agree with the position they have taken.