Lately all eyes have been focused on the national government. Will the health-care reform act pass? Who will become the Republican nominee for President? What is Congress going to do about the debt ceiling? These are all important issues, but they are not the most applicable to our everyday lives. It’s important to remember that the majority of the laws and issues that impact the average citizen are decided in Georgia city halls and under the gold dome.
People easily get swept up in national issues, but are not as likely to be involved at the local level. The truth is, the local level is where we live and work. There was a time in this country not long ago, when the States had much more power over the Federal Government. When the Founding Fathers drafted our Constitution, they were deeply afraid of creating a strong central government and purposely limited the functions the Federal Government can perform. Everything else was left up to the states. And though our National Government is stronger today than it was back then, it’s not the most influential on our daily lives.
Why then are people not more involved with their local governments? Our local communities are where our homes are. They’re where we work, sleep, drive, where our kids go to school. Our lives are in our local communities, so shouldn’t they be the focus of our political attention? The easiest way to be involved at the local level is to find out who your representatives are and pay attention to what they are doing. See what your municipal government is up to through the Georgia Municipal Association. The GMA has a program called Hometown Connection specifically geared to connecting legislators and constituents, so that the General Assembly knows the impact laws have on city governments.
Democracy hinges on people going out to vote. Yet, voter turnout is incredibly low for statewide and local elections, even though those are arguably the most important. People don’t take the time to attend city council meetings or petition their state representatives. Everyone got fired up about the Immigration Bill which received national attention, but very little attention was paid to HB 920, which would have strengthened our state ethics laws.
It’s time for us to get involved with our communities and have an impact on the policies that affect our daily lives. The simplest way you can make a difference locally is to go out and vote if your area is holding any special elections to fill vacancies. Just because it’s an off-year doesn’t mean that we take a break from our civic duties. Get involved, and go local. You just might make your community a better place to live.