By: Raquel Obumba, Master of Urban Planning
Have you ever wondered, “Why does this street look like this?” or “Why haven’t they taken care of that pot hole?” “Wouldn’t it be safer if they put a street light here?” Let’s face it, we all do it. Some people’s lists may be longer than others, there are small and large things we notice in and around the city or town we live in that attention.
Why can’t someone do something about my city? Each of us should be empowered to get involved and have a voice. We can attend city council meetings, contact the public works department and of course, vote.
Our default thought is, “I’m sure someone will take care of it” or ignorance of where to start seeking assistance to improve the city or town. People are unaware of how to raise concerns due to lack of clarity of the services available. There are people and organizations dedicated to making our questions and concerns into a viable reality.
Attend a City Council Meeting
These meetings are often held monthly at the city hall in your respective city. This will help you stay abreast of the current issues or happenings within your city. The order of the meeting can vary, but many times people are given the opportunity to voice their opinions about the items on the current agenda or even add items to be discussed in future meetings.
Visit the website of the city or county you live in to find out when the next city or county council meeting will be held. Plan to attend.
Contact the Public Works Department
Public Works offices are in place to maintain the city infrastructure (e.g. streets, sidewalks, bridges). If you notice a pot hole in the street or a large crack in the sidewalk that could be a trip hazard, report the problem to your Public Works Department. It may not have been reported yet. If someone else has gotten the ball rolling, your call will emphasize the concern residents have about the issue.
Contact information about your local Public Works Department can be found on your city’s website or by searching “Public Works in (insert your city’s name here).”
Rock the Vote
Voting for various bills and propositions that affect the laws and protocol used in your respective city, county and/or state is a great way to ensure your voice is heard. We have opinions on many items on the ballots; however we fail to make it to the polls. Do your best to stay abreast of the various items on the upcoming ballots. And make sure you mark your calendar for Election Day.
Check your local newspapers for more information about what will be on the ballot that year.
The key to becoming the voice for the change you want to see in your world is using your voice to express your concerns to persons of influence within your local jurisdictions. Cities are large and complex, even if they are small in population. There is no way for one person or even a number of people to know everything going on in a particular city at one time. Even if you just make one call to the Public Works department or attend one city council meeting a year to bring a particular issue that’s bothering you to the official’s attention, you are making your voice heard. You never know whose life you will affect by voicing your opinion.
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