As “shady” politics can be, why do I bother?

Readers of my blog may have wondered where I’ve been. I have been missing in action, but that’s because I have been very active lately.

I have participated in many things in the past couple of months trying to get to know what is going on in Oakland and my community: a black history celebration with CBS 5 in San Francisco, a mock “Balance the State Budget” exercise in San Pablo, attending meetings with the Oakland Food Policy Council, attending Block by Block Organizing Network (a grassroots resident organization dedicated to improving Oakland) and lately, helping with the organization of the Oakland District 2 Town Hall sponsored by Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Pat Kernighan.

All of this activity is mainly just about me being nosy and finding out  how I can participate. I had plans in my head on sharing about all of those things on this blog, but man have I been busy!  And it’s all SO exhausting. I don’t know how other people blog everyday and still do their day jobs. It’s hard for me. I like sleeping.

However, I did want to write about WHY is important to do these things and why I feel more people should get involved.

I understand why people don’t want to. Government and political antics can be disappointing and frustrating, especially since the simple actions of irresponsible elected leaders can affect so many people in negative ways. Recent state budget cuts, such as ones affecting child care and First 5 California, have really made me upset. I also don’t agree with  some of what is happening nationally, like the military action in Libya (I agree with the intent, but not the cost.,), although I support President Obama 100%.

However, despite all that seems wrong with politics and civic engagement, I recognize all that is right about it wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for regular people who care enough to take care of their community.

Everyday there are hundreds of people in Oakland that do little things to make their community better. In the Grand Lake Neighborhood Yahoo group, there is a discussion on how to fix the potholes on Lakeshore Avenue.  What people don’t realize is, often potholes aren’t noticed by the City as needing to be fixed. You have to tell them! How many of us complain about the bumpy roads and wonder will they be fixed? 90% of the time, they won’t be, unless someone complains and force the city into action.

Regular people can also effect change statewide. First 5 California was threatened with elimination recently with a bill called SB 486, which would have diverted funds taken from cigarette tax revenues to support young children’s education towards reducing the state debt. Thousands of young children would have lost out on a valuable program to get them ready for kindergarten, a terrible blow given our public education system is in need of serious help. YET, it was a simple phone and email campaign to the author of SB 486 which stopped it from being introduced to state legislature again, for now.

It’s actions like these that keep me from being jaded, and so excited about how each and every one of us can make a difference! You don’t have to be a councilmember, a mayor, a governor, or President to improve your or other people’s lives. Everyone can make  change, even if by taking one small step.

So with that, I encourage you (if you live in Oakland) to attend the Oakland Town Hall’s with Mayor Quan, and share what you would like to see happen in your city!

District 2 Town Hall is happening April 30, 2011. 10-12:30 pm. Download the flyer for place and directions by clicking Dist 2 Town Hall.pdf

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