October 14, 2008

Community Outreach Events

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In 1787, right after the Constitutional Convention, someone asked Ben Franklin what kind of government the Framers had given America. He answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s point was that republics can’t survive unless people get involved and take responsibility for their own governance. It’s up to each of us to play a role in government’s day-to-day workings.

Still, it’s not always easy to get involved. Too often these days, government can seem distant and impersonal. Many men and women – not mention young people – don’t see a role for themselves in the legislative process. So they sit on the sidelines, watching legislators make decisions that have very real consequences for communities around the state.

That’s not the system Franklin envisioned. To him, civic duty meant more than just voting every few years. It meant everyday citizens actively voicing their opinions on major issues, and holding government accountable. First and foremost, it meant knowing about government and engaging officials in a constructive dialogue.

In that spirit, I’d like to highlight two events happening next week. The first one, on October 22nd, is a town hall meeting featuring the newly-created Department of Children and Families (DCF). The meeting will take place at 4:00p at the Washington Park Senior Center. It will give community members the opportunity to learn about DCF’s work in areas like childcare, job provision, and education. It will also provide Milwaukeeans with a chance to get direct answers to their questions through face-to-face interaction with the men and women who run DCF.

The other event I want to mention is my own in-district office hours. My staff and I are always happy to schedule appointments with constituents to help resolve issues or concerns they might have. Sometimes, though, setting up an appointment just doesn’t work. That’s why, on October 23rd, I’ll be visiting Atkinson Public Library, at 1960 W Atkinson Ave, from 1:00p-2:30p. My staff and I will just be waiting at a table in the main library, available to meet with any constituents who care to visit. So, if you’ve got a problem to solve or a political position to share, I’ll be available to hear what you’ve got to say. Hopefully, we can move things forward right there!

America’s political culture is built on citizens interacting with legislative representatives. It can’t survive if people and government aren’t on the same page. Part of the responsibility for that falls on government. We owe it to everyone to create opportunities for interaction. I hope the two events I mentioned in this article are a good start in that respect.

But it’s not all up to government. In a system built on citizen participation, it’s up to men and women from outside the political scene to actively get involved. I hope many of you will take advantage of next week’s opportunities as a major step toward becoming more involved. In some ways, the success of our government depends on it.