When Marcos Wisner told me he was running for City Council, I was surprised. Not in a bad way – as a Durango native and the co-owner of Ernie’s 11th Street Station, I knew this small business owner was smart enough to hold his own on the council. No, what surprised me was that he was going for it in the first place. I mean, we’re roughly the same age, and running for a position on City Council felt like something … okay, I’ll just say it. It felt like something that older people get involved in. Not old people, mind you – just people who are older than me. I’d never even considered that someone from my generation would take the time to be a part of local government.
Marcos laughed and told me I wasn’t alone: a lot of younger people don’t think about City Council at all. In fact, he hadn’t really considered running either until two seats opened up in the upcoming election. After talking with some community members, he realized a lot of people agreed with his opinions, and if he gave it a go, he might even inspire young people to get out and exercise their voice. After all, if someone in a younger generation would stand up and fight for them, wouldn’t they be inspired to speak up for what they need? And really, that’s exactly what he hopes to accomplish: getting more involved in the process and becoming a voice for the community – especially those who feel their voices are not heard.
The more we talked, the more my eyes opened. I’m a member of this community – I live here, work here, and pay taxes here. Shouldn’t I have a stake in what goes on in my town and how my money is being spent to improve it? And, of course I care – enough to make disgruntled comments on a newspaper’s Facebook page anyway, and certainly enough to troll perfect strangers on those same comment threads (drunken Facebook should NOT be allowed, just saying). It’s easy to stand up when one is mostly anonymous, but our points of view are so easily skewed in print. Complaints become an invitation for more hate, and it’s way too easy to gang up on each other. No, social media is not the best place to exercise my voice because it’s not actually being heard by the people who matter.
So, how do we mend the disconnect? Wouldn’t it be great if we had a way to stand up, get involved, inject our voices into the process, and bring fresh ideas to the table? Ahem, there is a way – City Council – and someone in my generation feels so strongly about getting involved in it that he’s willing to give up his time to do it. Shouldn’t I also rise to the occasion?
Each one of us can make a huge impact by simply voting for the people who sit on the council. In fact, you can have more impact at a local level than any other form of government. It’s hard to see the ripple effect when participating in federal and state elections, but ballot measures and elections at the local level can be separated out by a mere handful of votes. And, while it’s not the sexiest way to spend your Tuesday night, showing up to the meetings is another way to get involved. Maybe you own a business and are upset about restrictions, or perhaps you’re a citizen who’s unhappy about the way the city is maintaining the budget, its infrastructure, or the homeless situation. You might be perfectly happy with everything about this town except the ability to find affordable housing. Guess what? Our City Council hears all of these issues, and all you have to do is show up and speak your mind (intelligently, I hope).
Nothing happens overnight, especially not in politics, but we can choose to be a part of the change we’d like to see in the world. How great would it feel to look back one day and say, “Hey, I had an impact on this!” We’re doing it by shopping local and buying produce at the farmer’s market instead of the grocery store or choosing craft beer over big beer. If we’re investing in the future of our local economy with how we spend our hard-earned dollars, why couldn’t we make participating in our local government the ultimate “support local” move?
I think we can, and I don’t think it will be that hard, either. Ballots go out on March 16, and the City Council election is April 2. Better yet, they hold regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6:30 pm. It might seem boring, but once you get involved, it could easily become something you’ll get excited about.
— Lindsay Mattison