If you talk to any politically active person, they will tell you the level of government that most directly affects your day to day life is the local level. City aldermen, town and village boards play a critical role in controlling one of the biggest taxes homeowners face. Property tax bills are directly affected by the fiscal policies at the local level. If they spend unwisely and are not held accountable for that spending, the bad spending will continue.
For that reason, I was shocked and disappointed that tonight, in a village of roughly 10,000 residents I was the only member of the general public that was present for the board meeting itself. When I walked in, there were four people already seated. Two of them were receiving awards from the village for volunteer work. One was the spouse of an award winner. They all left shortly after they were presented with their awards. The last person, I later learned, was a newly elected trustee who, although not sworn in yet, was there to attend a closed door session that was to follow the open session.
Granted, there were no earth shattering motions put forward, but if it appears like the public does not care about the process, what is to stop corruption?
I'll admit that this is the first board meeting I have attended in the nearly four years we have lived in the village. It is not for a lack of interest, though. For a majority of the time we have lived here, my job has required me to work Tuesday evenings. However, now that my Tuesday nights are more available, I will attend every meeting I am able to.
Our village board meetings are broadcast on local public access TV, but in my opinion, that's just not the same. You can see the proceedings, but when they open the floor to public comments, your voice cannot be heard.
So folks, if you want to have the right to complain about the political system, attend a local meeting and become part of the process!