Friday, December 20, 2013

87 Ways You Can Make a Difference

On Tuesday, December 10, I attended my last council meeting as an elected official and made a shocking disclosure.

On Monday, December 16, I made that same shocking statement online at the American Fork Citizen, calling on American Fork's homemakers to make this a better place for our families. Read the full story here.

I am truly grateful for the response to that call. Many of American Fork's homemakers are recognizing the need for change -- and I include in that title not just those who discharge the important duties of managing households and families, but all, male and female, young and old, native and transplant, who recognize that American Fork is our home, and we are its homemakers.

The best and most promising response came in the form of a question: 
How does a homemaker get involved in politics? I wouldn't mind being involved; I just have no idea how to go about it.
I'm so glad you asked! Just for you, I've compiled a list of 87 things to choose from. Not every item on this list is for everybody, but if everybody chose just one new thing to do this year, we'd see a tremendous surge of community involvement.

I have done all but five of the items on this list. But I didn't start big. I started small, by attending my first committee meeting.

Before that, I began by watching the example of my own mother.

My mother is an example for us all. Though she never held office or attended a public meeting, she was a thoroughly informed voter. She subscribed to the local newspaper and could speak intelligently on every local issue, candidate, and ballot proposition. She knew who the movers and shakers were in the neighborhood and visited with them to inform her opinions.

When she took us, her children, to the park, the library, or the city celebration, she usually had a story to share about their creation, funding, and controversies -- stories she had read in the newspaper.

Perhaps most importantly, I saw her come to the polling place at my elementary school and vote. She knew the price that had been paid for her to have the vote, and she voted in every election.

Thus, for the homemakers among us and for our children, I offer the following list. Think it over as you form your New Year's resolutions.

I look forward to seeing you around town!


The List

Meet your neighbors.
1.       Take walks around the neighborhood and stop to talk with people.
2.       Host a block party and include the neighbors you don’t know.

Go online.
3.       Browse the City code.
4.       Browse the City Web site.
5.       Subscribe to meeting notices at the Utah State public meeting notice Web site.

Follow the news media.
6.       Read the Provo Daily Herald, online or in print.
7.       Read the American Fork Citizen.
8.       Learn about our history – visit the historical records room in the AF library to read newspapers from past decades.
9.       Read local stories in any newspaper, about any city, to learn more about less-understood issues: zoning, redevelopment agencies, regional planning, taxing districts, and the like.

Participate in social media.
10.   Follow or friend the mayor and city council members.
11.   Like or follow the various City Facebook pages: planning, Fitness Center, library, American Fork Symphony, Timpanogos Chorale.
12.   Like or follow the major newspapers on Facebook.
13.   Share relevant articles.

Prevent crime.
14.   Learn your neighbors’ habits and learn to recognize activity that doesn’t look right.
15.   Be prepared to report suspicious activity by programming the non-emergency numbers into your phone.  American Fork Police: 801-763-3020. After-hours dispatch: 801-794-3970.
16.   Keep porch lights on all night.
17.   Keep homes locked at all times.
18.   Keep cars locked at all times.
19.   Thank a police officer.

Improve the neighborhood.
20.   Take litter walks.
21.   Read the nuisance code and bring your home into compliance.
22. If shrubs or trees make walking on the sidewalk along your property difficult, trim them.
23. Keep sidewalks clean and safe in the winter. Help neighbors with theirs.
24.   Take advantage of the City’s standing offer to pay half the cost of sidewalk improvements in front of your home.
25. Don’t leave your garbage or recycling cans on the street longer than necessary.
26. Don’t park on the street during a snow storm.
27.   Concerned about other nuisance properties in your neighborhood? Often it’s because a family is struggling. Join with neighbors to provide service.

Attend meetings.
28.   Sit in on city council meetings now and then, even just to be a fly on the wall. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at historic City Hall, 31 North Church Street.
29.   Follow planning commission notices and attend when an agenda item affects your neighborhood.
30.   Missed a meeting? Read the meeting minutes later at afcity.org.
31.   Bring your Scout groups to city council meetings.
32.   Bring your young women groups to city council meetings.
33.   Attend meetings of a volunteer committee that interests you: the Library Board, the Beautification committee, the Neighborhood Preservation committee, the Arts Council, the Steel Days committee, the Historic Preservation committee, the Cemetery committee, or the Parks and Recreation committee. All meetings are open to the public, and all welcome public comment. Learn more at afcity.org.
34.   Volunteer to serve on a committee.
35.   Encourage your teens to serve on the American Fork City Youth Council.

During my eight years in office, I only saw a young women’s group once, but there were Scouts present at every council meeting.

Get to know your elected officials.
36.   Attend council meetings and speak in the public comment period.
37.   Outraged by something you read in the newspaper?  Call or email a council member and ask for a first-hand perspective. (There are two sides to every story.)
38.   Questions? Opinions? Shoot us an email. Dumb questions and short emails are just fine. Smart questions and lengthy emails work, too. For best results, include the words, “Thank you for your service.”

As American as apple pie, complaints are essential to a well-functioning democracy. Bear in mind, however, that complaints can be expressed civilly, and that positive feedback is important, too.

Become an informed voter.
39.   Attend meet-the-candidates events.
40.   Host meet-the-candidates events. (We don’t call them “coffees” in American Fork, but they have the same grass-roots impact.)
41.   Ask your neighbors how they’re voting and discuss the issues.
42.   Vote, even in the off-year, local elections.

It’s been said that there is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage, which explains why local races are non-partisan.  Local issues aren’t nearly as divisive as partisan politics, so don’t be afraid to talk with your neighbors.

Use the form at afcity.org to report problems such as—
43.   Potholes.
44.   Maintenance issues in City parks (vandalism, dangerous tree limbs, broken sprinkler heads).
45.   Malfunctioning sensors at traffic lights.

Use the “Citizen’s Request for Services” button at the left of the home page, or use this link.

Support the library.
46.   Check out lots of books – this proves demand.
47.   Pay library fines cheerfully – they help the bottom line.
48.   Enroll your children in story time.
49.   Make a monthly habit of taking children to the library. Make a daily habit of reading with them.
50.   Attend the monthly adult education offerings.
51.   Support the library’s fundraisers.
52.   Take advantage of the services offered in the computer lab.
53.   See what the Bryan McKay Eddington Learning Center can offer your children.
54.   Send your honor students to volunteer at the Bryan McKay Eddington Learning Center.
55.   Check out the bulletin board for posters and flyers on community offerings.
56.   Donate gently used books to the library.
57.   If the library doesn’t have the book you need, request it – the library is often able to respond to patron requests which strengthen the library’s collections.
58.   If the library can’t accommodate your request, consider buying the book, reading it, and then donating it to the library.
59.   Ask about the library’s wish list and consider making a donation.

Get to know City resources.
60.   Visit your neighborhood park.
61.   Visit a park on the opposite end of town.
62.   Visit the fitness center.
63.   Walk the trails.
64.   Walk your child to school. How are the sidewalks?
65.   Attend annual open houses at the fire department.

Try out the City’s quality of life programs.
66.   Attend an Arts Council performance.
67.   Enroll in a class taught by the Arts Council or at the fitness center.
68.   Use the fitness center.
69.   Play on a team.
70.   Coach a team.
71.   Attend a Steel Days event.
72.   Volunteer to help with the Steel Days parade.
73.   Have breakfast at the fire station on Memorial Day.
74.   Attend the Memorial Day program.
75.   Attend the Veterans Day program.
76.   Attend the Heritage and History Pageant at the cemetery.
77.   Volunteer at the Heritage and History Pageant.

Shop local.
78.   Support small businesses.
79.   Try a local business before going out of town or making an on-line purchase.
80.   Take your children trick-or-treating at the Main Street Halloween event; get to know the businesses there.
81.   Buy gas in town – a portion of your gas taxes comes back to the City based on the point of sale, and is used for road maintenance.

Understand your utility bill.
82.   Read your monthly statement and make a note of which service charges are billed, including culinary water, pressurized irrigation, sewer, storm drain, garbage, and recycling.
83.   Read the water rate study to learn what the water rates must cover, including operation and maintenance, depreciation, and land leases.

Understand your property taxes.
84.   Read your property tax bill. Take note of the different taxing entities, and notice how much goes to each.
85.   Understand what your City property taxes pay for: road maintenance and snow removal; police, fire, and ambulance protection; planning, zoning, and building permitting; parks and recreation; library; and many other services.
86.   Pause to think that this is the only tax you pay that is levied by people you know – people you can complain to when you see them in the grocery store – and that is spent directly on you in your very own neighborhood.

And finally—

87.   Support the Community Action Food Bank.



1 Comments:

Blogger Dalynda Marie said...

Inspiring & adaptable in my home town too!
You are a great writer & I appreciate your time and effort.

December 21, 2013 at 4:01 PM  

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