I’ve lived in the same city (about 11k residents) my entire life now. I moved out of my parents’ house and bought a house down the street in 2005.
It was only recently that I got somewhat involved in local government. I read an article in the local paper that mentioned the mayor was interested in getting a group together to re-visit previous future growth documents and I emailed the mayor saying I was interested. I got on to that committee and we met once a month, interviewing a different department head each time, and then after 18 months came up with a nice future growth/redevelopment document to present to council.
During my time in that group I got to know a lot about the inner-working of the city, who was who and what was what. One of our group’s members became a council member. I started going to city council meetings just to know what was up.
I joined the parks & rec committee. I also became the treasurer of a PAC to help pass a levy in November (it failed) and am now treasurer of a PAC to pass the current version of the levy.
People keep wanting me to run for council but I just can’t. Not only do I have social anxiety and have zero extra money for a campaign, I just can’t deal with The People. Through these two ballot issues I’ve had to deal a LOT with The People and they are just so mis-informed it’s mind boggling.
I know you don’t wake up one day and totally understand how the city works. I learned a TON through educating myself on things. But people aren’t even willing to find out the right answer, or hear the right answer. You give them an answer and they brush it off. Everything’s a conspiracy.
Not everyone. But enough to totally scare me from the job.
I think I can do good in my city by being in the supportive roles I’m in. It’s the best I can do. I am personally connected to this city and want to see it succeed, and give everyone the experience of a nice place to live.
Anyway, I never hear anyone on this board talk about being in local government. I think maybe a school board member here or there. Surely amongst the “smartest” on the Internet there have got to be a few of you who have participated!
I came in first, with under 50%, then lost a runoff to the incumbent for school board. Was appointed by the mayor to a city planning commission seat, and a member of my district’s representation to the state Water Resources Advisory Board. Was a delegate to the state Democratic convention. All the above in a small town (pop. 4,000) in Kansas.
In Canada, I was approached by all three parties to stand for election to the provincial legislature, but declined.
I was on the mayor’s transition team in Anchorage one year. My wife created a grass roots organization to push for more and better public transit there, and was asked to run for city assembly, which she turned down. Otherwise, nothing. State and federal, on the other hand. . .
First of all, do you really think you need much campaign money to run for council in a town of 11k?
Both of my parents were involved in various forms of local government (council, zoning board, etc.) in the tiny village I grew up in. I now live in a small city and I’d be very interested in getting involved. A few years ago I put a little thought into running for city council, but I don’t have the time to do it on the side and I don’t want to take the pay cut.
You don’t need much compared to national or even statewide campaigns, but you still need something.
TV ads aren’t cheap, and radio’s not all that much better. You can maybe get volunteers to hand out your flyers, but you have to pay to print them in the first place.
I helped a friend get elected as a township trustee a few years back, that was a pain, and now I’m being looked at to replace a member on the local economic development district, don’t know if I want the hassle, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the time.
I was on the County Planning Board for 2 years and I got to see how sausage was made, and it wasn’t pretty. I saw a lot of backstabbing, and we are a poor rural county. Imagine what it would be like in a medium sized city, but my biggest issue was that nothing ever got done. I come from a background of working in the corporate world, including a number of high tech startups, and we would get more done in a day than the County was able to get done in a year. Now counties aren’t in it to make anything, and no matter what they do the property tax dollars keep rolling in so they have no incentive to be efficient, but the waste of time, money and resources turned me off to local government in a big way. At one point I wanted tried to fix things from the inside… but you can’t fixed a system that is inherently broken and unworkable. I now try to get as far away from local government as possible.
The people I talked to said they spent about $3000 on campaigning. Signs, flyers, shirts, etc.
Even if I didn’t spend that much (it’s possible I could get funding), there’s no way I could manage all of the personal interaction it would take to collect signatures to get on the ballot, then meet with people to convince them to vote for me. If I won I would not be able to do all of the talking to people that the people deserve from a council person.
**dolphinboy **that is some interesting insight into county politics. Makes perfect sense that a county would be so stagnant. I am sure ours is too.
Just the little bit I’ve been involved with our city politics makes me want to run for the hills. But I struggle with the thought that this has been my home for 38 years and God-willing, 38 more and I should stand up and fight while everyone else runs for the hills. But, so much of politics comes down to personality, and it’s just not who I am.
The thing that most makes me want to run is the stipend council members get each year. I think like $9000! That would be a significant pay increase for me…but I’d totally be in it for the money haha
Well, this township is only 61k, but it’s very full of wealthy people. Every election season, we are hammered with political ads, mostly the big guys (state and national), of course, but there are quite a number of local politicians running that buy a few slots towards the election on TV, and most of them blanket the radio for at least a week runup to the election.
I am sure that other townships differ.
The economic development district is different, as that is business owners that choose its members, so campaigning is less public.
When I moved to Humboldt I almost instantly got involved in City issues. My then-boss thought I would be a good addition to the City Planning Commission and Design Review Board because I had come from a Big City environment. Did both of those for two years.
I moved out of the City limits and was obliged to give up both those positions. But I transitioned to County issues and became active in our local town. I do not hold any official office or even an acknowledged official capacity. But in population-concentrated county areas (towns) like mine you can make yourself known as a resident of note. I fit in that category here. Thus, I receive Notices and other governmental paperwork on a regular basis based on my expressed interest. You can expect me to show up at any meeting involving my small community – and my County officials know I will.
I wish I had gotten involved in local issues when I was in my 30’s. After my experience here I decided one person actually can make a difference in local affairs if they try. Kudos to you for doing so as well.
I’m not now, but I was a volunteer on one of my county boards for several years.
Most people have no idea how much of local government is actually run by obscure volunteers.
The board was called the Board of Adjustment. Every county in Colorado has one, by law. Generally speaking, a building code has restrictions on how close to the property line a structure can be built. (For example.) If somebody in a non-incorporated area of the county wanted to build closer than that to the property line, or any other physical variation from the code (height, etc), they would appeal to us for a variance. We also got appeals when a pre-existing structure was built or measured improperly, and the owner was trying to get a variance rather than tearing it down.
I looked up the law, and I was amazed at how much power we had. The only appeal from our decisions was to the state court system. But here’s the kicker – the law explicitly said that the only way the court could overturn our decision was if we had somehow abused our discretion!
I have served on the local school board as an elected official back in 1998-2002.
I have served on numerous government appointed committees both in education and in local government over the last 30 years. I am an officer in my homeowners association (careful there-once you volunteer it is your responsibility to find your replacement-I have not been able to accomplish that in a long time). I attend council and school board meetings.
As has been pointed out, the government does not work like private business. Whenever you hear someone say that we need to run Government like a business you can be sure that is someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. The rules, for instance the accounting principles, purposes, and goals of business and government are quite different. If you tried to run a business like a government you would see a spectacular failure. Doing the reverse would be no more successful.
Government is complicated. Only by attending meetings and reading documents including (especially) budgets and learning how they work can one begin to understand how the organization works. You can’t gain that understanding by reading the newspaper or running a private business. Go to meetings. See government in action. One thing I have learned is that in the elected realm, access is easy. The staff doesn’t like strangers wandering around, but the elected officials are thrilled with the attention.
As someone who owns and runs a business, and also has some tangential involvement in the local government, I must say that anyone who says that government should be run like a business has no idea how either is run.
I talked to a local guy on Friday who owns a couple successful businesses in town, and over $10mm in property here. He is very much for the levy, which makes me pleased. Problem is he doesn’t want to get too involved
Not a part of local government, but I was appointed to some regional boards, such as one overseeing the public libraries. Very interesting!
Several years ago I was in a weekly meeting/class called Leadership <County Name> that was designed to teach us how our local government worked and to encourage more participation in local elections. I learned a great deal, mostly that politics were not for me.