Ordinary citizens can effect the kind of changes we want to see in how communities are planned and developed. But, in order for that to happen, ordinary citizens need to learn the ropes of how city, county, and sometimes state government bodies work.
Attend a city council meeting. Get to know who your city council representatives and your mayor are and how you can contact them. Introduce yourself to them so they know who you are. Get a feel for where they stand on issues of responsible growth.
Attend a city planning and zoning meeting. This is a great way to become familiar with the kind of projects the city is currently working on right now.
Cities usually post the agendas for these meetings online so you know when and where they'll take place and what will be discussed.
Counties have councils or commissions just like cities do. Find out when they meet, what's on the agenda, and if they're discussing anything that relates to community development.
The Utah state legislature meets annually for 45 days from January to March. It's during these few short weeks they decide on the bulk of the changes to laws for the year. Special sessions may be called outside of this 45 day session, but they are rare and usually only to address specific bills.
Because of the limited time the legislature meets, it's important to get up to speed quickly and be able to hit the ground running when the legislature is in session.
The legislature has a website, le.utah.gov, that has information on all of the bills filed for the current session and what their status is. There's even audio and video records of committee hearings and floor debates. You can enter your email address to receive email alerts about specific bills you want to track.
Find out who represents you in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Their job is to represent you. Even if they don't agree with you on some issues, they can still help you if you have questions about who to talk to for the best information on a bill or a legislative process.
You can find your representives by going to the Legislature website and select the My Legislators tab.
Many legislators now participate in social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and this may be their preferred method of interacting with constituents. Until you know, it's probably best to stick with e-mail and phone calls.
If there is a bill you are concerned about, plan on attending a committee hearing where the bill is discussed. This is the best place for members of the public to provide valuable input on a bill. The committee decides if a bill has enough merit to go on to a full floor vote.
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Hopefully, our website provides valuable information you can use to help your representatives make wise decisions on responsible growth in your community.