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Whenever I get discouraged about how difficult it is to make a difference in politics, my husband puts things into perspective,

“Honey, the system is designed to discourage people because it’s where real power is brokered. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. They especially want to discourage people like you who ask too many questions. And you’re particularly picky when you actually expect them to answer them!”

This is the beginning of his pick-yourself-up-out-of-the-corner pep talk. Sometimes I feel like a boxer — but without the snazzy shorts and gloves. Politics is mostly about looking-good, not being good.

Mostly those who fund the system get what they want out of it. Those who can’t afford the buy-in, of both time and money, are left by the wayside, and usually insulted for even trying.

One reader noted the extreme bi-polarity of those controlling the two-party system. It wears reasonable people out. But back to hubby’s point: the system is designed to be unreasonable unless you have the money and power to force it to respond. It’s impossible these days to get anything through to the mayor through city channels without having to have it vetted by a 20-something partisan paid to keep you out of the halls of power. I wonder does he even realize this?

More and more the so-called strong-mayor system appears to me to be the missing mayor system. No longer is the mayor required to listen to public testimony and debate the issues of the day in open, televised public meetings. He drops in to deliver proclamations and dictates. He sends out lots of PR and holds lots of canned press conferences where he controls the situation. Where are any regular people able to get their questions answered? Does he have open office hours?

And where are those appointments to the city’s boards and commissions? In my experience the requirements of a formal, open public meeting is the only venue where individuals are actually listened to and interacted with seriously. The system will still try and ignore you, but the context of hundreds, if not thousands of people listening, as well as being on the record forever, provides the only real opportunity to negotiate with the power brokers — as well as setting the stage for litigation later – the only other approach they are required to deal with. Even more time consuming and expensive of course, but most often citizens win if they are smart and persistent.

One reader asked where is the list of City Boards & Commissions and how do you apply? Here’s the site.


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