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Who Needs Community Listening?
Who Needs Community Listening?
Who Is Being Asked?
Two Ways to Improve
Misconceptions to Improving
New Measures of Civic Engagement
In your lifetime, have any of your candidates or elected officials asked you what your concerns are? Click here to discover that we're not alone.
What are your concerns? Click here to see if you share the concerns of 100 of my neighbors.
I believe most of us need community listening. Here's why:
Residents Don't Have Time to Contact Electeds How many families working full-time or at multiple jobs, especially with children, have time to contact their elected officials?
Perhaps it is our civic duty to contact all our electeds and tell them our concerns but do we have time to contact all of our elected officials about all our concerns, especially with lots of innuendos, nuances, or finer points? Do electeds have time to listen to each person's concerns?
In one Washington State voting precinct, Tacoma's 29-614, residents have 48 people elected to represent them, not including judges. Residents of Medina's MED 48-0752 have 42 and Seattle's SEA 37-1651 residents have 36.
How many of your electeds have you contacted about something that concerns you? Did you contact more than one?
Electeds Don't Have Enough Time to Directly Contact All of Us It would take Washington State's governor 57 years to listen to 6.9 million residents for one minute each, leaving no time to craft legislation based on the concerns heard. It would take state legislators (state senators and representatives) one year to listen to the concerns of each of their 137,000 constituents. (Click here to see how long it will take all of your electeds to hear your issues.)
There Is No Law Requiring Our Electeds to Ask Us Our Concerns During the Fall of 2014, 100% of 309 Washington State residents surveyed said that none of their elected officials had asked them their concerns.
Even if they would, who wants 48 elected officials coming to their door every year?
Speaking of transparency and accountability of our elected officials, I would want a public record of such a collection in order to see if they've worked on any of our concerns.
Political Parties Are Not Required to Ask Anyone Their Concerns There are no legal requirements for any political party to ask anyone their concerns – not their members, not voters, not non-voters, not independents – no one.
Some might say that Washington State's precinct committee officer (PCO) system comes close to addressing grassroots' concerns. However, the only legal obligation of PCOs is to simply replace a partisan vacancy regardless of the concerns. (See Revised Code of Washington 42.12.040.)
Flaws in the Election Process Skip People's Concerns I ran for Tacoma School board in 2009 because I wanted to close the education opportunity gaps for kids of color.*
I came away understanding how the present candidate/election process skips whole segments of people (parents, minorities, low-wage earners, independents, etc.) and their concerns.
I believe one of the reasons the gaps persist is that laws are made without considering parents' real concerns surrounding their children's education.
It is a candidate's job to win the election. In running for school board, I knocked on doors of people who voted three out of four times (frequent voters) and asked them to vote for me. Frequent voters are more likely to vote in the future – and vote for you because you asked.
I observed that frequent voters were predominantly white, lived in higher income areas, and were over 60 years old. Very few frequent voters lived in lower income areas. Successful candidates for any office, local or state, seem to avoid neighborhoods in the education opportunity gaps.
Candidates' campaign literature is a one-way communication asking you for your vote. What about your concerns? Candidates are not required to ask anyone their concerns - some try, others don't.
If more candidates concentrated on our concerns rather than getting our votes, wouldn't all our children graduate with great educations?
*According to Washington State's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010, closing the education opportunity gap will take 54 years at our current pace even though the concern was identified in the early 1960s by the federal Department of Education.
Copyright 2016 Deb Blakeslee