by Annette Dashofy
Unless you live under a rock, you know that the nation is in its usual election-year frenzy. Everyone thinks THEIR candidate is going to change the world and make their life better. Well, guess what. Probably not. Regardless of whether the next President’s name is Obama, Clinton, McCain or Huckabee (President Huckabee???) odds are, not much will change that directly affects any of us. If you want to see government truly at work, you have to look closer to home.
I attended our local township supervisors’ meeting the other night. I’m ashamed to admit that the last time I went to one was back in the seventies when I was supporting the movement to start a real ambulance service in our area. At the time, our EMS consisted of a red hearse manned by firemen with basic first aid training. We succeeded.
I also attended local meetings a few years ago when we were trying to block the building of a State Correctional Institute a mile from the high school and then-proposed (now real) elementary center. We succeeded again.
On a local level, politicians and government can actually DO something.
My reason for attending the township supervisors’ meeting this time was much less activist in nature. In fact, I just sat in the back of the room and made comments about the weather with another township resident. My reason for venturing out into the cold was simply RESEARCH. My next novel involves local politics. Dirty politics in its grassroots form. So I figured I’d better spend some time in that world.
And what a world. Most of it was fairly boring stuff. The three supervisors voted to buy a new/used police car. A report was made on the new dump trunk they had recently purchased. A lawyer made a brief presentation regarding his bid to get nearly 80 acres of farmland rezoned so his client could build yet another housing development. Hunters in the audience moaned. There goes their hunting grounds. Others pointed out that our tiny corner of the universe desperately needs expansion and growth. Nothing was decided, but I’m willing to bet the hunters are out of luck.
Then the fun started. The public got their chance to voice complaints and get action. Most of the issues had to do with trash in the neighbor’s yard or a dilapidated house creating a hazard. These things seem small potatoes, but think about it. A concerned citizen can walk into a meeting and talk directly to the guy doling out citations, give him an address, and have the situation dealt with. One lady complained that local cops were griping about not wanting to respond to her neighborhood anymore (probably because this gal seemed to complain about everything from her neighbor’s trash blowing into her yard to the kids urinating next to her house). But she spoke up and the supervisor who deals directly with the Chief of Police promised to talk to the guys.
The evening was not without one major revelation for me. I’ve been told, though, that EVERYONE knows this, but I did not. When you see a pair of sneakers tossed over an electric line, that’s a sign that kids can buy drugs there. There’s been a pair of sneakers hanging on the line outside our yoga center for years! And (duh) kids hang out on the steps in front of the building all the time. Is there anyone out there besides me who DIDN’T know this!
Anyhow, research or not, I think I’ll be going back. It was interesting to find out what’s going on in the township. And I found some great new characters for my next novel. Besides, now I know what to do if the neighbor’s trash blows into my yard. Forget writing your congressmen. Go to a meeting of your LOCAL government if you want to experience REAL change.