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Commentary: Government needs input from its citizens to operate properly

POSTED: February 27, 2011 12:30 a.m.
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George Wangemann

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In our Democratic Republic, we elect representatives to represent our political views. How do they know what our views are? Do they take the time and put forth the effort required to know what we think and feel about our government?

Many elected officials do the best they can to probe our thoughts about the issues that affect us. In the end, our elected officials hope to represent a majority of us, but they don't hear from that majority and often are elected by a small minority of voters. This thought has caused me great consternation and even made me wonder just how representative our levels of government really are.

In looking hard at this problem, I decided not to point fingers and play the blame game. Instead, I tried to look at a few possible solutions to meet these challenges.

Several countries around the world find themselves in turmoil. People in these nations are rebelling and protesting simply because they want to be heard. Many beg to have this precious right restored and some even gave up their lives for greater freedom.

In America, this right is often taken for granted. It is akin to our health. Good health is sometimes hard to appreciate until you don't have it. Therefore we must not allow ourselves to lose the power of engagement with our government.

It is our citizens who provide the stabilizing force in society. They often let us know when a course correction is necessary. Where there is little participation in government, and a few try to run things, government can become unstable, which in turn can cause instability n the community, state or nation.

We must be reminded that citizens create government, not the other way around. The citizens are the creator and the government is the creation. I have always known the creator to be greater than the creation. Even elected officials have bosses and these bosses are the people. All elected officials would do well to remind themselves of this fact on a frequent basis.

Citizens must understand that voting, as important as that is, is only the beginning of the political process. It should not be the end of their participation. Just as voting is essential, voicing is just as important, if not more so. Voicing one's feelings and thoughts about issues should be done throughout the term or terms of our elected officials. Most elected officials understand that while serving in office, they are running for re-election. Citizens too must be constantly running to keep officials informed.

There are several ways to keep elected officials informed. Calling, writing, e-mailing or visiting with elected leaders are a few of those ways. Elected officials should reciprocate and be proactive in meeting with their constituents. Five major efforts are going on in your Gainesville city government:

  • One community meeting on the second Saturday of each month from 9:30-11:30 a.m. sponsored by Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras and Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center. All citizens of Hall County are invited to become informed about community issues.
  • The door-to-door approach inviting citizens to our City Council meetings.
  • The 2011 Citizens' Government Academy, a seven-week course that meets each Monday evening. Each class will offer the best of each city service. We welcome any and all questions and suggestions made. County residents are welcome as well. Go online  to sign up or call 770-531-6598.
  • Ckeck out the Gainesville website.
  • The Gainesville/Hall County cable TV station, Channel 18. Here you can view and hear what goes on during City Council and county commission meetings. Stay informed on what your governments are doing.

Participation helps to drive improvements to our system of government. Never has there been a greater need for more involvement. There is so much good that can be accomplished as long as we don't care who gets the credit.

Your voice is just as important as mine. It matters not how wealthy or how poor you are, how much property you own or how influential you are in the community. All voices are equal. Voices and votes tend to be equalizing factors in government more than other factors. We must utilize our precious rights and take part in the great opportunities presented to improve our community.

Just as a ship can drift off course under an unwatchful eye, a government can drift off course unless it is constantly under the watchful eye of its citizens. I encourage you to keep a consistent and constant vigilance upon your government so that we can say about all levels of government that they are governments of the people, by the people, and for the people.

George Wangemann is a member of the Gainesville City Council. He has been very active in encouraging residents to become engaged in government, including going door-to-door to hand out invitations to council meeetings



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