- Become a speaker at your local public, private, parochial, and home school. Help teachers explain the relevance of their civics curriculum. Share your experiences as a local official or activist. Host field trips to local government and community agencies so students understand their impact in our day-to-day lives.
- Establish an online community forum to share information and ideas. If one already exists in your area, then (1) participate, (2) recruit others to participate, and (3) share your forum with us to inspire others to take action. Here are some very successful examples:
- Establish an online community information portal to archive and share local ordinances, regulations, processes, and documents. Also include relevant legal rulings. One of the great challenges for community activists is there is rarely “institutional memory”. As a result, much precious volunteer time is spent relearning processes, players, and precedents. There is always a “back story” to every local issue, and that information will not be in the public record or the news media. If one already exists in your area, then (1) participate, (2) recruit others to participate, and (3) share your web portal with us to inspire others to take action. Here are some very successful examples:
- Demand local governments make public information truly public. This means making sure government entities post all their public documents on the web, and making them keyword searchable. Ask your local government officials (town, county, school board) to create a citizens’ advisory board to make sure public information is available and user-friendly. Make sure there is a “sunshine” act that requires public access to public information and that local officials are fully complying with the law.
- Demand local governments be fully accessible to the public. Public meetings must be announced online by governmental entities so everyone has adequate and timely information in order to participate. Public meetings must be conducted in a manner that allows for fair and open consideration of public issues, including:
- the agenda known well in advance,
- information on some of the pros and cons of the agenda items available well in advance,
- proper procedures, such as Roberts’ Rule of Order, are followed,
- conflicts of interest are fully disclosed and officials recuses,
- the meeting is held at a time that maximizes public participation, such as an evening meeting in communities with many commuters,
- adequate time is set aside for the public to comment on pending matters,
- the meeting is broadcast, webcast, and the video permanently archived on an official website
- minutes and votes are quickly posted online. Lists of all votes would be very helpful for local government, where fewer monitory groups exist than nationally.
- If meaningful and timely public participation is being achieved in your area, then (1) participate, (2) recruit others to participate, and (3) share your local government’s web portal with us to inspire others to take action.
- Make sure your state prohibits “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” [SLAPP]. If SLAPP is allowed, then push your state legislators to pass Anti-SLAPP legislation. The First Amendment is vital to holding our public officials and our public processes accountable.
- Recruit and campaign for local candidates who support a healthy civic culture, regardless of party affiliation. No one party has “cornered the market” on helping or hurting America. At the local level, basic services [first responders, libraries, parks, utilities, roads] are not partisan issues. The rule of law, accountability, and effectiveness should always “trump” partisanship.
- Make sure your local governments announce clearly which staff to go to for each subject, from barking dogs to water quality. Make sure staff have time and are just as helpful to concerned citizens as to applicants, and inform the public early when they consider new policies and major applications.
- Make sure your local government posts its budget and spending online in understandable detail, generally broken into categories of 5%-10% of the total, neither mind-numbing detail, nor big totals hiding the story. For example if schools or police take 60% of the budget, break them into 6-12 sub-categories by region, grade level, or other important category.
We are rapidly developing and implementing new programs on a national scale. Your support is needed more than ever. Whether you are a parent or an organization, a corporation, or you have just remembered how lucky you are to be an American, please send your donation. The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative is a 501 (c)(3) organization and our EIN is #26-3083533. Your contribution is tax deductible.