Being a Citizen Takes Effort. And Sacrifice

Only one person spoke during the public hearing and he said he was uncertain about the future roadways.”

One person spoke. Surely, more than one person is affected or cared.

2017 is a good year to get involved, locally. Pack the meetings … even when something that doesn’t affect your backyard is being discussed.

I was talking to an acquaintance about public meeting attendance, and she recounted how she had attended meetings for years. Her husband would come home from work to watch the kid, sometimes, they’d get a babysitter, she’d forego other opportunities, in order to be a participating member of the community. She, and her family, sacrificed to be citizens.

It’s frustrating to see Neil Williamson with the Free Enterprise Forum posting pictures of empty auditoriums (he goes to darn near every meeting! … along with Sean Tubbs with Charlottesville Tomorrow).

Purely from a real estate perspective, these things matter

  • Zonings
  • Rezonings
  • Property tax rates going up (do they ever go down)
  • AirBnB rules
  • New businesses coming.
  • New houses coming
  • New development(s)
  • Infrastructure needs & improvements
  • That field? That field is going to change.

There are so many opportunities to get involved. My suggestion? Pick one, whether the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, ARB, Tree Committee, Soil and Conservation, there are countless opportunities. And go to every meeting.

I have long told my kids that they need to build relationships with their teachers so they will 1) get better educations and 2) should the need arise to ask for an extension on something, the teacher is likely to be more forgiving for a student they know.

It’s easier to strike up a conversation at the grocery store with your Board of Supervisor member if you 1) know him/her or 2) are at least a familiar face.

Same theory applies to politics.

For starters, Albemarle County offers a great email service, A-Mail, that sends out useful information about Board and Committee meetings. I couldn’t find where the City of Charlottesville sends out such an email, but here’s their meetings and events calendar.

A personal peeve of mine

When you show up at a local meeting – for the first time – to protest and voice your opinion against, because you just heard about that road/neighborhood/development coming in next to you? You might be a NIMBY.

Don’t be a NIMBY.

If you do go to that one meeting because it directly affects you? Go to the next one. And the next one, even if the material affects only the community in which you live, and not your particular back yard, or street.

Be present. Frequently.

Being there is hard, and it sucks sometimes. Meetings are boring. They’re dry. They are interminably slow-moving. Until you realize in September that that thing they’re talking about voting one was discussed at that meeting last August, and February.

Local politics matter.

Boy do they matter.



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  1. Michael Holroyd January 3, 2017 at 10:08

    I love the message of getting involved locally, but going to every Council meeting must be a true exercise in Zen-like patience. Why don’t we have better ways to communicate directly with Council / Board online? Get them on the Charlottesville Slack channel! 😉

    1. Jim Duncan January 3, 2017 at 11:48

      “Why don’t we have better ways to communicate directly with Council / Board online?”

      Darn good question.

      I know in the County, goes to all of the Board members … and when I’ve emailed them, they’ve responded quickly.

      I’ve long felt that the only ones who go to all of the meetings/most of the meetings are those who either 1) are paid to do so or 2) have a vested interest in the outcome of a discussion.

      I’d argue that we all have a vested interest …

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