Idaho Dispatch

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Op-Ed: How Can We Reach the People?

By • December 12, 2022

During the November Liberty Dinner in Pocatello, there was a comment on how little participation there was in public forums. I have observed this to be true in City Council meetings, County meetings, School Board meetings, and many others. Since the mid-term elections are concluded, I heard many ask the question, “What is the Price of Freedom?” There are various responses, but it narrows down to the eternal vigilance of the people. The Founding Fathers of our Nation have affirmed that it is our civil duty to watch over our government. If that is true, then, it explains why we are losing our freedom.

The busy life that we live and the prosperity at hand have lulled us into believing that everything is well. Americans have stayed away from participating in government affairs. However, times are changing. Many have predicted an imminent decline of our nation. The American people’s re-engagement is necessary for a turnaround. If the last election tells us anything, is that more effort needs to be done to reach out to the People.

The First Amendment tells us that we have the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government.” But what is the medium that we could use to accomplish it? The following is a comprehensive list of how citizens can petition their governments.

First, Public Comment Section within a government meeting. These are times set aside for the citizens. Typically, the officials conducting the meetings announce that their bylaws prohibit them from acting on items not listed on the agenda. Comment periods are not the most productive medium for citizens’ participation.

Second, submitting written comments or phone calls. These are gathered by an administrative assistant, filtered, and assigned to various departments for response. I believe that government employees do their best to answer inquiries, but many of them cannot address deep-seated structural issues that plague many of the local governments. Additionally, in some places, elected officials rarely get to see these comments.

Third, contact our elected officials directly. Elected officials are known in their communities, people can contact them directly via emails, phone calls, letters, social media, etc. From my experience, special interest groups do the majority of the outreach and the true will of the people is left out.

Fourth, Town Hall meetings. Town hall meetings have been around for quite some time. We have records indicating town hall meetings in the Colonial Era. These are informal meetings where dialogues can take place between citizens and elected officials. I have attended several of these meetings, and I like them. But they are not happening frequently enough, and there is always the danger of special interest groups’ infiltrating a town hall meeting. Nevertheless, the goal is to reach out to the People and reengage them, whatever the medium.

With that said, what can we do to reengage the American People? I would start with Town Hall meetings, perhaps monthly. Additionally, I would like to emphasize three things.

First, these Town Hall meetings need to be regularly scheduled.

Second, the meetings could be conducted by as few as one elected official, but with government employees in attendance. To run a government organization–such as cities, counties, school boards, or special districts employees will be necessary. The Federalist Papers refer to them as Magistrates. An updated term for Magistrates is Public Administrators, Staff, or Government Employees. Note that too frequently, policies are produced and promoted by staff. Both elected officials and government employees need to show accountability to the People. That’s the reason why staff presence is needed.

Third, technologies can be used for outreach. Covid taught us an important lesson: virtual meetings can be productive. To avoid outside influences, such as special interests from outside the area or even outside the state, participants would need to be identified, registered, and screened through a moderation process.

Trying to engage the people will not be easy. Along the way, we will find disinterested individuals, frustrated voters, and people with narrow special interests. But, to restore American values and ideals we will need an active citizenry. I also believe that more Americans will learn of this new opportunity, and be reminded of their civic duties. They will participate because the future of America depends on it.

Art da Rosa, PE, MPA, Inkom, ID

This Op-Ed was submitted by Art da Rosa. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

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Tags: American values, City Council, County Commission, Government, Public Comment, School Board, Town Hall Meetings

23 thoughts on “Op-Ed: How Can We Reach the People?

  1. This is pretty damned simple: The Committees, Government and Elected/Non Elected “Officials” work for and are paid by the people.
    If they don’t, If they cross the Constitution, If they fail in their obligations, they must to face arrest, prosecution and removal.

    1. While it is very easy to bitch, moan, gripe and bellow about these things it might be good to give some kudos to agencies that actually do reach out to the people and value as well as respond to their opinions more and on a more regular basis than others. An example might be the Ada County Highway District which routinely, during the public communications portions of Commission meetings hear what citizens have to say and then direct that person to the appropriate staff with a timetable given, by the commission, for a report back as to progress or final disposition of the matter presented (that because decisions cannot be made on anything presented during public communications due to posting requirements). Commissioners and staff regularly have public meetings in the neighborhoods discussiong projects, designs, timetables, etc. Those public comments (not by special interest groups) are taken very seriously and acted on frequently. The Commission has instructed staff to go door to door if necessary to enable a good sampling of public opinion and commentary. This kind of reasonable governance is never reported on because it doesn’t fit the idiology and pre-conceived mindset of folks that merely like to bitch, moan, gripe and bellow. Oh, the readers here might be interested in knowing that these processes have been enacted by the non-partisan Commission which never allows the line to be crossed into partisan politics. They are, however, frequently threatened by supposedly conservative individuals and groups, if “Republican Values” aren’t injected into many of the decisions which the commission makes. It is pathetic, but the liberals don’t behave that way, but rather use their influences and make their opinions known through the normal, established processes of that agency. Seems to be working. Having said all that, your recommendations of how to be more effective are spot on and should be followed much more and by anyone wanting to be heard in an effective manner.

    2. Nearly all of our “representatives” have at multiple times failed to keep their oath of office and have not defended the constitution. More of the people need to speak up when they see this and hold the reps accountable. This has been going on for such a long time that nothing is done and they are all running amok. And this behavior has completely infiltrated all levels of government and large organizations and it is mostly along one side of the party lines, which makes it worse. Come on everyone we need to speak up or we will be like China in no time.

  2. I’ve been to town hall meetings they all end up the same way, in arguments that get out of control! Talking to elected officials is like talking to the wall, writing them is worse, I have never had a reply from any elected official! These people don’t care they just want the perks they get from holding office, the people of this country need to get out and vote all incumbents out of office, then establish term limits and reduce all the perks these criminals have been voting for themselves!

    1. I’m sorry to hear. I have heard from most individuals I have sent out emails to in the past and recently. It’s like anything in life if you want change it starts with US. My husband and I have seen this coming and have tried to warn family and friends about this attack on our liberties and rights. Now it’s here and we need to make a stand. ALL OF US DO

  3. A hopelessness has been firmly instilled in the populace. Most people don’t believe in the validity of their own ideas or opinions and those in office often try to enforce that paradigm so as to exercise a free hand in their office.
    The cure begins in the education of our younger generation by instilling confidence and a habit of participation in public affairs.
    A better way of publishing the schedule of these meetings and the subjects being affected AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES needs to implemented. Since newspapers have fallen out of favor and standard broadcast media isnt much better, maybe some kind of local public service announcement system could be implemented through wireless phone carriers like Verizon, or whatever carriers operate in a given area.(just a thought)
    Although public shouting matches will happen from time to time, it might be better than one office holder exercising a free hand that affects the lives of thousands of people in a potentially negative fashion.

  4. This is an excellent article in the fact that it is simple and it states the facts. Really boils down to if you don’t attend some of your local town halls where politics starts, Unfortunately your part of the problem and why we are losing this country. That being said at whatever level you are involved take it up a notch this year and resolve to do more to save our country!

  5. All good comments so far, but there is a point related to elected officials doing outreach that I would like to expand upon. Elected officials follow the law in having public meetings, or public comment time, etc., but some officials do everything they can to obstruct public input and when they have to listen to it, do so stone-faced and then make no response. Elected and appointed officials who do this need to lose their job. In the case of appointed or hired officials, the person (Mayor and/or city council) who put them in the position must be held responsible. This requires that voters make themselves aware of who is doing good or poor jobs and spread the word so everyone knows who really represents them. Hard to do, but remember, we get the government we deserve every time.

  6. Town Hall meetings are marginally effective at best. The structure of the meeting is to limit input from the people in 2-3 minute cycles with little chance for counter rebuttal. There is always a large amount of time given to awards and acknowledgments given to various groups and people that is largely unproductive. The very structure of these meetings is counterintuitive to any real discourse. Until you get lawyers out of politics this will continue.

    1. BINGO! Get the attorneys out! All of them! Our form of government is not to have any attorneys holding office in any capacity and our Founders were quite clear about it! So, maybe get our candidates to run on that platform! Attorneys are trained in law of the sea…not law of the land. They take an oath to first represent the B.A.R. and then the court and lastly the client. Law of the land has to do with ‘People’ not ‘persons’. Look up ‘Justinian Deception’ on U-tube and Rumble. Learn some history.

    1. Louise C., you are my hero. You said the most with the least. Another 2, 4, or 6 years of the same RINOs have all but guaranteed our Republic’s complete collapse. Quick, everybody, gooogle-search “how to survive what’s coming” and get to work on your bug-in/out/whatever plans. Seriously, folks, why aren’t our state officials joining with DeSantis in absolutely everything he is doing in Florida?

  7. After the results of 2020 and 2022 elections, I am convinced that the majority of the citizens like exactly what and how the government works. Handouts, free stuff, government corruption. Nothing will change as politics and government protects themselves

    1. Not really as the decision makers are the actual voters, not the citizens at large. I agree and the really pathetic thing is the low percentage of voters that make these decisions. Having said that, those are the citizens that actually count and the rest pretty much push themselves into being irrelevant.

  8. One more suggestion to add. Vet all local candidates and support their campaigns to the best of your abilities. There are good candidates that run for the offices but it is very difficult to beat the establishment.

    1. Scott, there are good candidates but we have a group that believes the Leadership Institute is the paradigm for winning elections. Everyone wants to start at the state level. This part is ridiculous. The Leadership Institute doesn’t tell them how to market themselves and almost all of the candidates failed. They also failed to place more conservatives on the Boise School District Board. Why do they insist on following the same losing pattern???
      When you suggest that they need to show who they are starting at the local level of city commissions, attending city council meetings and speaking on issues, they can’t be bothered. Is it beneath them. Not in my opinion. All issues are local.

  9. It’s not government that’s the problem, (ever); it’s always: the few of the many of the elected and unelected people who are entrusted with the powers of government that abuse, and or misuse their high positions in government. betraying “We the People” and their oath. Government is a thing as is money, guns and all other none living things. They are inanimate objects. They think not! therefore they can do no good or evil. Only man and spiritual beings can do good or evil!

  10. It’s kind a simple. You get the public to participate when they believe the politicians really care what they have to say. in most of these meeting that I been in of late. The groups holding the meeting are only doing so to appear that they listening to the public. Allot of the times the groups such as school boards, city councils, county commissioners have made up their minds. When the people see that they really can effect change then they get involved. if these groups really want input, they’ll show they want input by what they do.

  11. You know, I go to town hall type meeting’s when they are close by. The last one I attended, everyone got to submit One Written question. All of the questions were directed to certain individual politicians. I felt that really didn’t give a good picture of the mindset of the politicians attending so my ONE question asked, by a show of hands, how many of you would vote for term limits ? You should have seen how slowly the hands went up. WE HAVE TO CONTROL the politicians, not vice Bersa.

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