Politics wouldn’t be so frustrating if more citizens actively participated in the process. Being an informed citizenry before heading to a ballot box could make the election results, especially in the downticket races, much more bearable because the likelihood of making the best available choices would significantly improve.
But there are so many other fronts where active civic participation can reap huge dividends. Would there be greater accountability from school districts if the turnout at school board meetings was always huge? I tend to think so. And if members of the community volunteered at the schools on a large scale, could educational outcomes improve? I think it’s possible. And what about citizens who serve on city committees, like streets and sidewalk committees, that keep city council members updated on pothole conditions . . . is there a use for that? Of course there is. How many townships have volunteer fire departments? There are still quite a few of them. Civic involvement improves our communities in so many ways.
Here’s an article from the Chronicle-Telegram about the start up of a block watch within an Elyria neighborhood. The local citizens are pro-actively taking measures to prevent themselves from being targets of crime. A police spokesperson, Lt. Andy Eichenlaub, told the C-T that there are 14 different neighborhood watch groups within the city of Elyria, and that number may grow.
Brandon Rutherford, a Democrat (I do tend to think in terms of party affiliation, don’t I?) that I’ve corresponded with from time to time, and a person I have a lot of respect for, has been orchestrating this particular block watch. What amazes me is the amount of information being provided to residents. Besides building relationships with the neighbors, experts are on tap to advise residents about securing businesses and residences, making use of child ID kits, curbing domestic violence, obtaining concealed carry permits, employing basic martial arts philosophies and techniques, and creating liaisons between the citizens and the police.
Part of the motivation behind this particular push is the concern over the elimination of 12 police officer jobs in Elyria. If you’ve ever read the Harry Potter series, or seen the movies, this Elyria effort reminds me of part 5, “The Order of The Phoenix,” wherein Hogwarts students organize Dumbledore’s Army because they recognize deficiencies that their classes in Defense Against the Dark Arts won’t remedy. With the current bleak economic environment, any number of local governments may be faced with cutting safety services because tax revenues can’t keep up with expenses. This neighborhood watch approach can send a strong signal to would-be criminals that citizens have no intention of becoming victims, despite the cutbacks.
I commend Brandon Rutherford and the others in his neighborhood who’ll be participating in this effort for taking these steps to look out for the best interests of their community. I hope to see more such examples of civic participation in upcoming weeks and months.