Now’s a good time to get involved
By Ferrell Foster
Act Locally Waco, from its start, has sought to promote involvement in our community. The below screenshot is of the City of Waco’s public meetings page. If you would like to get more involved in or knowledgeable about our city, this is a great place to start.
Many people do not attend a public meeting until they have a complaint or a personal financial reason. Good government requires much broader involvement.
If you go to the City page you will notice there are a lot of meetings. No one can attend them all, but you can pick out one or two of special interest. It could be parks and recreation, building standards, zoning, libraries, civil service (police and fire), the city council, or something else.
When you go to your first meeting you might be a little lost, but if you go a few times you will be surprised at how quickly you become something of an expert on the subject. And if you show genuine interest in the common good of our community, you may even be asked to become more involved officially.
Also, if you or someone you know is thinking about running for a city council spot, be more than a candidate — be a knowledgeable candidate. And the only way is to look under the covers of city government and find out what is really going on.
Anyone who looks closely at how are city operates is liable to be impressed by the dedication and hard work that so many people are bringing to the task of city government. That doesn’t mean you will agree with every decision, but you will learn even more by listening to those you disagree with.
Please don’t go to these meetings with an attitude of “I know more than these people” or “I could fix this if they would let me” or some other negative approach. Go with a desire to listen and learn so you can be highly informed when the time comes for input.
Also, you don’t have to be a professional journalist to “cover” a public meeting. Anyone can attend and write about what they hear and observe at meetings. Do that “reporting” through your own social media or you can even share it with Act Locally Waco and we will consider publication. If you write for ALW, just be careful to get the facts right and keep your opinions out of it. Just share the facts.
Texas law protects the openness of public meetings to keep decisions from being made in the proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” of the past. If the public doesn’t attend, our officials might just as well be behind closed doors.
Another note, the law allows some items to be discussed in closed or executive sessions. They usually consist of legal, personnel, property, financial contracts, and security matters. That may seem like a lot, but usually our public officials do not want to be seen as trying to act secretly. They know their integrity is at stake.
And, by the way, if you live in one of our neighboring cities, please get involved in their meetings. Or in county government. Our governmental bodies have to operate separately, but our region will become an even better place to live in all of our officials are operating in the public interest for the common good.
Ferrell Foster is director of communications for Act Locally Waco and president of Kortabocker LLC: Communications Built on Caring.