Increasing our Engagement

I’m an Eagle Scout. I continue to be actively involved as a merit badge councilor. One of these is the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.

In the introduction of this merit badge manual, it says “A community is a group of people living in a particular area who share common characteristics, interests, activities, or purposes.”

I believe this has some truth to it, but when speaking of a city, let’s be honest, the “community,” is often about people who don’t share common characteristics, interests, or activities, but who still work together to preserve their core values and realize the vision and mission of the city.

What is our city’s vision? Do you know? What is our city mission statement? If we are to be successful as a city, we need a shared vision. If nobody knows what the vision is, a shared vision isn’t possible. That leads to failure.

We must get more people involved, and care about, things pertaining to our community!

That starts with our elected officials.

Our city councilors do great work. My wife and I have had one councilor who hasn’t ever returned an email or gotten back to us on a few things. But apart from this non-responsive councilor, most are very open to talk, and will respond accordingly. I think this is great.

But, in preparing for this campaign, I’ve asked probably 200 people if they know who their city councilors are. Seriously, almost nobody knows! Most can pinpoint Glenn Johnson as our mayor. A few have pointed out some of our others, such as Eileen Macoll or Al Sorensen. But that’s as far as it goes. Seriously, most of our councilors are far less known than they probably realize. Heck, one resident, when I asked who his city councilor was, said, with a question in his inflection “Barney Waldrop?”

How does a new resident even figure out who their city councilor is? If you go to the city website, you can see a list of the seven councilors. One is at-large. The other six are listed and their respective wards are listed. But what isn’t there? Something that shows what ward you’re living in! So, you still don’t know which of the councilors listed are yours.

Aside from an easy website fix, kind of like a Washington state’s Find Your Legislator, the easy fix to all this would be having councilors themselves speak on an ongoing basis with their constituents.

Instead of going around every four years and knocking doors, how difficult would it be for an elected councilor to send a monthly email to their constituents in their ward, or a monthly e-newsletter, something like that?

When the city council sets its yearly goals, those are posted in the Community Update. But then are we to rely on the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, or KQQQ to give us the updates from there? Why?

A single city councilor is merely one of seven. So, there are few campaign promises I’m going to make. I will promise to work hard toward solving certain issues. But I can’t speak for the other elected officials, nor would it be appropriate.

The one campaign promise I will make, however, is a monthly e-newsletter or email to the Ward 3 constituents. Where does the city council sit on its goals set for the year? What are some of the challenges that we’ve met? What opportunities exist for our residents to get involved?

I don’t feel folks want to be unengaged. Why are there often more people on Sunnyside Hill who want to be part of the planning commission than, say, Pioneer Hill? Because that’s where a lot of building is going on! That’s where developers are coming in, building houses, and not building sidewalks. These things are not out of sight out of mind. They’re right in front of the residents’ faces. They care.

Folks also talk about issues on social media. This shows that they are looking around them at things. But they should know who their councilor is so they can reach out to them.

I think if a councilor sends the kind of information I’m going to make a central part of this councilorship, then we’ll all be the better for it.

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