How To Become Well Versed In Local Issues
Showing Up for Our Communities
In a society obsessed with technology, we’ve lost connection to local community. We gather online instead of with our neighbors, making it increasingly easy to focus on the “big issues” and turn a blind eye to the injustices happening down our street. Thankfully, it seems the blinders are slowly coming off as people are leveraging that same technology to educate, connect, and fight for justice locally and nationally.
Using our voices, money, and vote to show up for our communities has an immediate effect that national politics will never replicate. During a time of global uncertainty and immense change, being part of a team proves to be much stronger than going at it alone. Today, and every day, we can take small actions to participate in and protect our local communities.
Research Your Local Officials
Start by researching your local officials. Who represents your district in congress? Who supervises your community locally? Who makes decisions on the city council? Research these individuals and find out what their stances are on local issues, as well as how they’ve voted in the past.
Do you agree with them? Fantastic, send them a message of support and keep that in mind for the next election. Do you disagree with them? Find out when their next town hall is and go make your voice heard. You can also make a call to said official and share your concerns with their staff. Email and snail mail are options if you don’t love talking on the phone. Make your voice heard!
Important local issues will vary slightly depending on where you live. However, reading up on your elected officials’ records on equitable education, housing rights, and police regulation are always good places to start.
Cast Your Vote in Local Elections
Voting is another consistently powerful way to use your voice. At a conference a few years ago, a representative from the organization Showing Up For Racial Justice said, “Organize locally, apply pressure nationally.” Voting in general elections is undeniably important, but participating in local elections is just as imperative. Without involvement in local happenings, we have no way of understanding what needs should be made a priority nationally.
These are the elected officials who will govern your public transit systems, local resources, housing rights, workers’ rights, city-wide emissions, and more. Voting is not only a right; it’s a privilege. And we must not take it for granted. We can care for our neighbors by voting in ways that benefit them instead of a select group at the top.
Subscribe to Local News
To make your votes count, you’ll want to know the why behind your votes. You most certainly can cram in some last-minute research before elections, but wouldn’t you rather stay informed all year so that you’re prepared for the voting booth? Make your life simpler and get plugged into your community by subscribing to a local newspaper. While some of these news outlets will have better reporting than others, it’s always nice to support local businesses. Regardless, I would highly recommend sourcing your news from more than one outlet (and here’s how you can fact check media).
Another way to stay abreast of community happenings is through your public radio station, local TV news, independent podcasts, blogs, and even local reporters’ social media accounts. For instance, I check in on Los Angeles Times stories and catch the occasional segment on Spectrum News 1. (They do a great job at highlighting local projects, which is how I found the LA Podcast.) As I dive deeper into these sources, I discover reporters or community leaders I trust, and then I follow them on social media to get snapshot news throughout the day.
Combined, all of these outlets give me a holistic picture of what’s happening in my city, what the larger issues are, and how I can be a part of the solution.
Volunteer With Local Organizations
After becoming well acquainted with the happenings in your community, begin deciphering what local issues are closest to your heart. Maybe you’re passionate about stopping homelessness in your city or fighting for efficient and accessible public transportation. Whatever the problem, there will undoubtedly be an organization tackling it nearby. If you live in a smaller town and can’t find a group already involved in the issue, then it’s time to start your own!
Think about the skills you have and how they can be put to good use in your community. Do you enjoy meeting new people? Find an organization out in the field where you can mingle with constituents. Do you want to get your hands dirty? Seek out an organization with volunteer opportunities that include community gardens, tree plantings, or trash pick-up. Do you have excellent organizational skills? Volunteer to help with administrative tasks or research.
As someone who‘s always interested in a million different issues (surprise, I’m a Gemini!), I’ve dabbled in various local fights. I’ve interned with TreePeople, attended a day-long conference with Investing in Place, volunteered within my church’s food ministry, and looked into opportunities with the Los Angeles Beautification Team. This year, one of my goals is to hone in on one organization and consistently participate in efforts to better my chosen city. Advocacy and activism must remain intersectional, as all things are connected. (For example, we cannot clean up a city’s air pollution without addressing environmental racism.)
With that in mind, consistently committing to one issue or organization guarantees we each have a larger and more sustainable impact on our respective communities. We all have a part to play, so go cultivate yours!
Getting Involved From Home
When volunteering in person isn’t an option, our technology-obsessed society really does come in handy. If you still want to volunteer your time, you can find good options for virtual volunteering here! Along with making calls and sending emails or mail, there are several other ways to fight for justice from home. If your budget allows, consider investing your dollars in local organizations; many accept donations through their website or a third-party service. Increase your impact by committing to a specific organization with a monthly payment.
You can also consider signing online petitions or using your voice on social media. Keep yourself connected by joining an organization’s online community, signing up for their emails, and staying abreast of local campaigns. The internet isn’t so bad after all.
How do you get involved in your community’s politics? 🗳️ Share in the comments below!
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.