A lot of my friends and colleagues think that because I work for a newspaper, I must be a political junkie.
They are always so eager to pick my brain on what the president is doing and ask what my hot take is on trade sanctions in other countries.
But in all honesty, I’ve totally divorced myself from national and global politics. The truth is, I can talk at length about the City of Cottonwood sales tax or the latest in the Upper Verde Valley school district consolidation debate. Beyond a municipal level, I’m totally lost.
I reconcile my general ignorance with what is happening in the rest of the world with the fact that it is my job to be this insulated. As someone who hopes to be a competent journalist, giving the communities I cover the representation they deserve is essential.
In the last several months I’ve attended multiple school board and city council meetings within the Verde Valley. I’ve spent a lot of time absorbing the nuances and intricacies of key players in the communities I cover.
Sometimes, I’m one of the only members of the public at these meetings. To the other members of the public who consistently attend these meetings without the motivation of meeting a story deadline, hats off to you.
Complaining about our elected representatives may be a great American pastime, but showing up takes work. Luckily, cities and towns such as Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde record their meetings so you can watch from the comfort of your own home.
Documents and presentations from meetings are also available on the municipal websites.
Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski has said on multiple occasions at meetings that transparency between council and public is crucial.
Last week, I attended two Cottonwood budget meetings. In the last few weeks, council members have been holding work sessions as they try to balance a more than $1.5 million deficit for Fiscal Year 2019. Several members of the public showed up to these meetings with signs advocating for a .65-percent sales tax increase. This was a very unusual move, as noted by members of council.
“Whether or not we seven members of the city council decide on an increase, or difficult cuts to an already lean budget, or both, I truly respect individuals using their constitutional right to stand and express their opinions,” said Cottonwood Vice Mayor Kyla Allen in a public Facebook post.
At times when the world feels engulfed in fire and brimstone, efforts to make a difference can often feel futile. All we can do is look at our own communities and see how we can influence what’s directly in front of us.
Your voice can be heard, you just have to speak up – and show up.
Commentary by Associate editor, Kelcie Grega