Letter from the editor: ‘Decisions are made by those who show up’
By Adam Hocking
The title of this article comes from an episode of “The West Wing,” and may well have been uttered prior to that, but it feels particularly applicable to the Marshfield community at this moment.
The downtown community square idea, the Second Street corridor project, and whether or not to fund new athletic facilities for the school district are three hot issues that come my mind when I think about the importance of citizens being engaged in the local political process.
These projects have engendered heated debate, criticism, and support on Hub City Times’ Facebook page and website. This is a fantastic development. Social media allows everyone to have a voice.
The issue, in my view, is that while the social media conversation is a great start, it is not enough. What we must now do is transfer the online commentary to the real world. “Decisions are made by those who show up.”
For elected officials, unless they want to comb through numerous Facebook comment sections, there is no way to accurately evaluate what is being said about a particular project online.
In order to really be heard, people must attend common council meetings and school board meetings. These are the meetings that matter and where an individual’s voice truly can make a difference.
“I appreciate the comments people make on social media, and I view them and oftentimes reply to them, but they don’t replace the need to make contact with your officials either individually or by making a public comment at a meeting. Decisions are made at meetings where all sides can be heard. Comments on social media are not part of that process. So if you want your feelings known, send an email to your elected official, call him or her, or attend a meeting and make a public comment,” said Mayor Chris Meyer.
Writing a letter to a governor, congressman, or the president may fall on deaf ears. Conversely, in a small community like Marshfield, where our elected officials are our neighbors, the opinion of just one person has a chance to be heard and considered.
Marshfield citizens have an opportunity to build the city that they want. They have an opportunity for their opinions and feelings about local issues to be represented in the actions of local government, but they need to be in the room, attending government meetings, talking with decisions makers, making phone calls to elected officials. Facebook, Twitter, and the comment section on websites are great places to express yourself, talk with others, and debate ideas, but to transform that conversation into action takes another step.
Care about the state of the roads? Attend a public works meeting. Want an overarching view of what the city is doing? Attend a common council meeting. Every meeting the city has, and its agenda, is posted in the “Upcoming Events” calendar at ci.marshfield.wi.us.
Information about the school district’s meetings can be found at marshfieldschools.org.
The city and school district sites also provide the phone numbers of local elected officials. As a person who covers government meetings every week, I know that elected officials are impacted when even one of their constituents reaches out to them on an issue.
“Decisions are made by those who show up.”