It’s easy to be cynical about your local political representatives.
As a rule, politicians are the most untrusted people in America and with all of the political turmoil at the national level, it’s easy to forget that local politics is a very different animal. Most local officials don’t have any political ambitions bigger than serving their communities.
And because they are local, there is a big incentive for them to do the best job possible of following the will of their local constituents.
For a person of faith, it’s important to have family and faith-friendly policies in place in your community. The specific issues vary from locale to locale, but no matter what the local issues might be, here are five ways to help ensure that your voice is heard and listened to by local officials.
Remember to Vote
Yes, it sounds simplistic, but voting for candidates who share your beliefs and who will act on your behalf is the first step in the political process.
Many local elections don’t garner a lot of votes, especially in off-year elections. So a few votes can easily alter the outcome of a race and it can be as simple as encouraging friends, family and fellow churchgoers to vote for the candidate of your choosing.
Even better, voting on a regular basis is a great quality to instill in your children. Voting is one of the cornerstones of the American political system and it’s an important lesson to share with your family.
Donate Not Just Your Money, but Your Time
Local officials generally have very low-key, grassroots campaigns. Donating a few dollars to their campaign or offering to do a few hours of volunteer work can make a huge difference in the ability of your chosen candidate to compete effectively.
Particularly in local races, the determining factor in many elections are the volunteers. Local elections for school board or city council hinge more on passionate supporters than a big ad campaign. Someone has to be there to make the phone calls and give away the yard signs, and those are jobs that have a huge impact.
Attend All Public Meetings
If you are concerned with the direction of your local school board, then it’s not enough to just show up at election time and do a bit of work for your favorite candidate. You need to regularly attend the school board meetings in order to know what issues are important to your family.
Most meetings have time allotted for public comments, and that is also a good time to make your concerns public. Many times it’s possible to influence policy decisions well before it comes down to an election result.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
If you want responsive local officials, then it’s vital to know what their core beliefs may be. Don’t be afraid to ask them hard questions about policy decisions. Don’t be nervous about pressing them to discuss their opinions about issues that are important to you. It’s better to know the opinions of a local official before he or she proposes legislation, not after the decision has already been made.
Having discussions with your local official about policy also has an added bonus. These conversations remind them that they have constituents who are engaged and will be tracking their decisions throughout their term.
Knowing that you are being watched is a subtle pressure that can make even the best official just a bit more responsive to your needs. Knowing that their decisions may have electoral consequences can have a huge impact on a local official’s decision making process.
Consider Becoming Part of the Solution
Most people have little interest in running for mayor or even a spot on the local school board, but there are dozens of other positions that need passionate, engaged people. Many of them are part-time, often volunteer positions, but despite the lack of pay, they are positions that can have a huge impact on the quality of local life.
Being a member of the zoning board might not sound exciting, but those board members help determine which businesses can expand or even enter a local community. Park board members help determine the usages of local recreational areas and there are scores of even smaller positions that struggle to find people willing to donate a bit of time. Being part of that process isn’t just good citizenship. It allows you to help determine the future of your community in a very substantive way.