Saturday, January 29, 2011
Civic Engagement: What Can Residents Do? Post-script
When I think about civic engagement, when I talk about it, when I yammer on about it here, I reject the notion of 'Us vs Them'. Residents vs City Hall. Citizens vs Councillors.
I reject the innate cynicism where 'local politics' is concerned.
I'm not interested in adding to the lambasting, whether it be via murmured comment or harshly-typed vitriol.
While I certainly want to examine how things have been in order to figure out how we got to where we are, I'm far more interested in deliberating how we can improve local governance. And for me, the vast majority of the efforts, almost in their entirety, have to come from residents.
If we had an engaged citizenry that saw their involvement in local governance as part-and-parcel of how they lived their lives, if it was as engrained a manifestation as performing their roles as great parents to their children that some take on, for example, then I have no doubt that not only would we see our voter turnout rate more than doubled, we'd also see a massive change in how local governance unfolds...and how our Councillors execute this governance.
I do not believe the change we seek (even if some of us haven't envisioned it consciously) can come from any sort of restructuring from within City Hall. No rules or regulations regarding transparency or accountability, no mandates covering propriety can possibly effect the kind of authentic, substantive shift in paradigm that changing how our citizens see their place in the scheme of things could.
Neither can we accomplish much towards a better quality of living through anything fueled by anger. (Which is why the whole screaming-point of 'Throw the bums out!' at election time riled me the way it did. Ask Scott Thompson.) No, anger isn't going to get us anywhere, save onto another iteration of this clearly-unsatisfactory construct.
And yet, as I see it, the 'weak' aspect of the formula isn't on the 'Elected Official' side, it's on the other side, the side that's been habitually ignored. No matter the din from accrued disappointment every four years.
For there is no 'Them'. There's only 'Us'.
The sooner we realize this, the sooner we embrace this, the sooner we begin moving towards a much, much better state of local governance.