By Councilwoman Thelda Williams, District 1 Representative
NOVEMBER IS AN EXCITING MONTH – IT’S THE FALL SEASON, WE TAKE TIME TO HONOR VETERANS, THANKSGIVING, BLACK FRIDAY, AND OF COURSE…. ELECTION DAY.
When citizens cast a vote, they support the structure of our nation’s 244-year-old democracy. Casting a ballot and voting can be traced to ancient Romans and although the process has changed, the basic idea—your vote is your voice—remains the same.
While elections are extremely important, they aren’t the only time that citizens can voice their opinions.
COVID-19 changed our lives, but in city government, ensuring residents can provide public comment has remained. We can’t have an audience, but it is possible for residents to access public comment via the web or phone. Using technology, you don’t need to leave your home. Now, you can simply find a public meeting agenda on phoenix.gov, register to speak on an item, or submit an online comment card.
In March and April, the city holds community budget hearings prior to a final Council vote on the budget in June. Community budget hearings are an important time when we ask our citizens to share their thoughts on the proposed budget. I’ve seen great changes in the budget take place because of resident feedback. I encourage you to watch for these hearings, review the proposed budget, and share your voice at a community budget hearing.
Did you know that the city has more than 60 Boards and Commissions that advise and make recommendations to the City Council? Commissioners are recommended by Council members and appointed and sworn in by the Mayor.
Board and Commission members are highly regarded and members take a loyalty oath, much like the oath taken by elected officials to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona,” to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and “faithfully and impartially discharge the duties” of their appointed position.
We have residents who are experts in their fields or who have great ideas about various policy topics; we look to Board and Commission members to provide us with good policy advice. Public service requires time away from family, it takes dedication to work out difficult policy ideas and it takes commitment to show up for every meeting, but the reward is seeing something change for the better in your community, even your neighborhood.
Several years ago, I saw a great need in my neighborhood for a softball field. When my kids were young and this community was beginning to grow, we had to drive great distances for games and practice. I knew there had to be a better way and I got to work. We got our softball field and over the years I continued to serve on various Boards and Commissions, and eventually ran for public office.
Sometimes we think of democracy like clean water and don’t pay much attention to it. You do not need to start a political career to make a difference and you don’t need to wait until the next election to share your voice. The City of Phoenix has many ways share your voice and I encourage you do so.
If you have any questions, call my office at 602-262-7444.