What is civic engagement?
Civic engagement refers to the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future.
Three ways citizens participate in the life of their community come to mind —
- By being recruited or elected to serve on a governmental board or commission or other non-profit board to make decisions on how to improve community life
- By walking on … observing a community activity you enjoy and joining in to become a part of that activity, an act of social inclusion who’s purpose is improving life for others or to see a need and work to create a solution.
- To offer your opinion, to become informed, to vote.
Who do I have to know to get recruited – no one and everyone. If you wish to serve on a board or commission and haven’t been asked, submit your name either on the city website or in person, tell someone who is serving that you are interested. Every Mayor, not just the current Mayor would be the first person to say how hard it is to find people to serve. In the recent campaign for city council, it was said “the same people make all of the decisions, it is closed to outsiders”. So, if we are going to close the gap between those two realities, we have to keep holding the door wide open.
I’m going to share an example of someone that said we have gotten too comfortable; we have gotten used to driving past that broken sign, pavement, sinkhole, you name it. But who did something about it? She asked the Chamber of Commerce to form a committee to discuss what she had been seeing. A small committee was formed and conversation started, yes now that you mentioned it, that sign has been broken for years. A small committee expanded the conversation with business owners and now property owners. The conversation continues to define solutions and seeks the revenue to solve problems. During April, one small step was made by installing banners to draw attention away from those areas we wish to improve, in a positive way. The overall goal is to improve the economic value of doing business in Excelsior Springs.
The third way to participate is to offer your opinion. All projects are better when individuals share their opinion. But, this is where it gets tricky. Use your outside voice, not the one that should stay inside your head, that you have learned doesn’t work well at work, school, family reunions, friend groups, etc. You need to be heard, your opinion is important, but don’t let how you speak be heard louder than your message, or the only thing that is remembered is your attitude.
To vote is your right. We recently failed a school bond issue and issue to improve the Hall of Waters. My comments are not about whether either issue should have passed or failed. My comment is about the conversation that followed each of those issues. People failed to seek information that was made available or to even notice that it was made available, but were the first to condemn that there was no plan or information provided. REALLY. My message is simply, it is your civic responsibility to become informed. The health of your community depends upon it.
Two things I am certain about, it is my responsibility to engage our citizens and offer the willingness to listen to them. Citizens, it is your responsibility to….