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The League View appears weekly on Sundays in the Hendersonville Times-News.


January 2, 2011

Begin the New Year with a resolution to participate in democracy. Nowhere is that easier than at the local government level. Our county has five municipal and one county government, plus a public school board of education. These bodies meet regularly in open session. By the end of 2011 resolve to have attended one county commission meeting, one school board meeting, and a municipality meeting. Our system of government at the Federal, State and local levels requires that voters know the issues, know the operational choices available and participate by speaking out, by advocacy and especially by voting. To begin this active process, start observing - find out what you donít know about local issues. Then find out how you can make a difference.

January 9, 2011

Once a citizen attends open sessions of the local elected bodies, it becomes apparent that there are also many nonelected citizen groups functioning as formal or informal advisors to those elected officials. These advisory roles are filled by citizens interested in various issues and interested in serving government at the local level. To begin with, at the county government level the general statutes require the existence of several citizen panels. These include: boards of health, social services and mental health. As municipalities adopt certain rules they are required to appoint advisory boards for planning, adjustment, historic preservation, alcohol beverage control and other purposes. City and county governing bodies are authorized and have tremendous discretion when deciding to work with citizen advisory committees. Check each local government website to learn about functioning citizen advisory committees.

January 16, 2011

Many citizens who attend local government public meetings are surprised at the number of issues that face a local governing body. They are also amazed at the number of other citizens who participate in the process. Many citizens take the opportunity to address a governing body in public session to express views that pertain to a certain issue. Often citizens take time to speak in an advocacy role regarding issues that may not be on the agenda, but may be indicative of challenges for future board discussion. In local government, many ordinances are enacted because citizens have lobbied, actively in public presentations or quietly through local neighborhood or interest groups formed around a specific issue. An outcome of many of these activities results in formal recommendations that have been developed by citizen advisory committees.

January 23, 2011

There are benefits to a local governments workiing with citizen advisory committees. The obvious benefit is that it allows local governments to tap into local citizen interests and expertise. Appointing a citizen to an active board encourages that citizen to become a partner in the process of governing. On a diverse advisory committee, the local elected board has access to a variety of opinions and is able to respond to complex public issues with an understanding of all views. One of the best reasons to support citizen involvement in local boards and committees is that it expands and encourages transparency in government. Because appointed bodies must also be transparent, interested citizens not on the appointed boards, but interested in an issue, are able to attend citizen advisory board meetings to understand the evolution of public policy.

January 30, 2011

Being a public servant by appointment to a citizen advisory committee has many positive aspects. It helps a citizen learn about local government and it creates opportunities for those citizens to advance to future community leadership, both elected and appointed. There is also a cost to citizens who serve. Community participation is time consuming. Preparation is required for each meeting and many times service might involve extra meetings and interaction with groups of citizens also interested in the topic. The opportunities to serve are very satisfying to the appointees when the citizen boards are staffed well; are given all the information they require and when the elected governing board listens to, demonstrates a respect for and an understanding of the recommendations brought forward by a citizenís committee.



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