Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Governmental agencies can help citizens

Becoming an educated citizen in the U.S. society needs assistance. The electorate, registered voters, do not necessarily have time to attend refresher classes about governmental entities. National representation questions by citizens usually entails writing, either using cursive handwriting, typewritten, or e-mail , phone conversations, or personal discussions with representatives or their staff. The web site for the Congressmen is usually helpful in the bills their representative or senator is sponsoring and his reasons. They are staffed with plenty of people who can see to the needs of the constituency (the voters within their specific congressional district or state) and respond with proper responses. Some items actually get to the elected official. Congressmen actually have machines that copy their handwritten signature to make it look like they signed the return letter, usually the answers are within computer data banks and the staff insert the response and the signature is applied via the machine. To attend a Congressional Meeting, you need to send ,many weeks in advance, to your representative or senator for passes to the gallery on the day you desire to attend. The staff members will either mail your passes, if there is enough time, or have them at the Congressman's office for you to pick up.
The state level is less difficult to contact legislators and attend committee and legislative meetings. Each state is different.
Local government is a little more difficult and requires more attention to detail. If you check their web sites you will find licensing requirements, how to pay water bills, how to register for Parks and Recreation classes, how to get a building permit, how to report street maintenance problems, etc. What they don't tell you is such items as How do you get something on the Agenda at a County or City Council meeting? How to initiate,if you can , a rule or regulation. What State ordinances apply and how to get copies? What does it take to speak to the council?
Governmental personel are not very excited about allowing the public to know this information. That is their way of eliminating people who may be opposed to what the council is trying to get passed. People are basically timid. If they have to jump through too many hoops they will just walk away and not try to oppose whatever it was they were opposed to.
I would like to suggest that Local government entities establish checklists on their websites that would walk citizens through these type of items so citizens would not be intimidated as much by all the "red-tape" placed before them to talk to the council., etc. These checklists need to be clear enough and easy enough to follow that a "normal" citizen could follow them. When employees are writing these checklists, they have common terminologies they use in the office all the time, but a normal citizen doesn't. So, the explanations need to be in the most basic format, perhaps defiining words when needed. These check lists need to be present at the front desk, easily seen, for citizens coming into the office. These employees also need to remember that citizens are the ones' paying their salaries and are to be respected at all times.

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