We regularly hear, both in person and via email, from people complaining about the actions of their government. Sometimes they say they agree with our editorial stance, sometimes they just share their views.
But rarely do they want to go on record publicly.
We’ll always suggest that people write a letter to the editor to get their views in print, or attend a council or school board meeting and express their opinions. If they can’t attend the meeting, they can still write a letter and ask that it be read into the minutes. And folks, those are always the best ways to seek change, and the only way your voice will be heard.
As an aside, after you do it once or twice, we expect you’ll find it’s far less threatening and far easier than you imagined.
And don’t forget – there’s strength in numbers. So, if you’re planning to speak out at a public forum or public hearing, bring some friends who feel the same way. Maybe get a petition going and get lots of signatures.
Nothing, however, is a sure thing. As Londonderry’s original workforce housing discussions showed, the viewpoints of people speaking out were not enough to sway local officials.
And pay attention to the law. It’s not worth your time to argue in front of a board that has no power to act on your request. Questions going before a zoning board, for example, should be only for matters on which the zoning board can act. In many cases, the issue is actually a question for the planning board or the town council or selectmen, and your time would be better spent speaking out in the place where a solution is possible.
Regardless of what you do, there’s no guarantee of success. There’s no certainty officials will listen, although we hope they at least will appear to pay attention, rather than fiddling with their pens, checking their phones or staring off into the distance.
There’s another option – running for office yourself. It comes with a built-in platform for expressing your views, but it also carries a tremendous responsibility to represent everyone, not just people you like or whose opinions you share. And you are one of several, or in the case of the legislature, one of many, with only your power of persuasion to sway a majority.
However you do it, it’s a worthwhile venture to make your views public. Go where change is possible, make your case, bring supporters, and see what happens. You have a far better shot at success than complaining behind closed doors.