A Crash Course on City Government
Democracy is founded upon principles of transparency and citizen involvement. This means government must make certain things accessible to you. As an activist, you need to take advantage of this.
Here are some tools at your disposal.
OPEN MEETINGS: go to a few City Council meetings, eavesdrop in the halls, find out who are the big players on the issues you care about.
This will help give you a realistic perspective on where the current officials stand on the issue you’re concerned with and what it would take to move them.
PUBLIC INFORMATION ACT REQUESTS: the government is obligated to provide information and statistics on government entities including the schools, police forces, and courts, but you must be specific as to what you’re asking for.
Learn about how to make a Public Information Act request.
DROP-IN MEETINGS: Does your decision maker have drop-in hours? If not, you can still call to make an appointment to meet with your rep or one of his or her aides.
If you want your message to get across, deliver it personally. Your decision maker may surprise you with their willingness to listen, with information about what he or she is doing on the issue, or an honest response as to what it would take to get his or her support. At the very least, you can get the decision maker to start paying attention to the problem.
DIRECT ACTIONS: Organize allies to take their message directly to the public. It’s 2011, so be creative. Can you create a big art display? Find a new way to convey the message? This could be a sit-in, a performance for unsuspecting passers by, or a 1,000 letters of support brought to the steps of City Hall. Maybe you can convince a local member of the press to come along & cover it. Don’t make noise just to make noise. Make noise, be heard, and make change!
If you need help coming up with something memorable, check out our videos of community watchdog success stories.