Thu 16 Oct 2008
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Councilmember Laurin Easthom sketches out the scope of work required to diligently discharge a Council member’s civic responsibilities.
As she notes, agendas can weigh in at 11 lbs. Meetings are more frequently going until 1am. Preparation takes hours and hours. And the work expands well beyond what most folks usually see – liaising with other community groups and governmental entities, special sessions, representing the Town in all sorts of contexts, meetings with concerned citizens – much of which can be scheduled at most inopportune times.
Laurin has done a great service not only outlining the amount of work, but also how prepared a new member must be, as Mayor Foy has said the Council wants, to “hit the ground running”.
Beyond that, she suggests a new member must be ready to forge ahead with their own agenda:
Decide what you want to do in a proactive way on the council. It would be easy to sit up there and just vote on things as they come along in reactive mode, but most council members have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them. These are not always items on the agenda and things the public might see every day.
Laurin is right. Not all the issues our community faces appear on the Council’s agenda. Serving the community as a qualified Council member requires more than a passive approval of the status quo. Active engagement is a necessity – an applicant should consider if they have the fortitude to take the lead where none is currently offered.
That said, Council is appointing a new member for six months. If I’m appointed, I expect the lion-share of my effort going towards reducing our Town’s financial exposure, supporting and improving the on-going Carolina North negotiation process and a handful of issues I’ve contributed to over the years like economic development, environmental metrics, Downtown’s revitalization, human services and teaming up with our existing internal technology team to rework our Town’s Internet strategy. There are also Town and County boards I wish to serve on (more on that in my formal application).
Realistically, though, there is a mountain of work to be done in a very short time. An applicant wishing to excel needs to understand that. I also hope that an applicant is willing to put aside their near-term political ambitions and concentrate exclusively on the tasks at hand.
In any case, I well understand and respect the amount of work – those many hours it takes – to discharge ones Council duties at a level that our community deserves.
I spend upwards of 30 or more hours a week reading and researching UNC, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County agenda items. I attend board meetings, UNC community outreach events and other community functions to better understand the context in which policy is formed. My opinion on many issues evolves as input from our talented community pours in, as time reveals nuances not immediately obvious, as debate (yes, some issues get public debate) deepens my understanding.
I also try to engage our community, here on CitizenWill and elsewhere, by providing not only a particular, hopefully informed, opinion but links to or copies of the primary source materials I used to arrive at a particular policy endorsement.
I applied for the position knowing that I’ll miss dinners, start early and go late, in order to perform my civic duty at a level our community deserves. Luckily, I have a very, very understanding family, a flexible work schedule (as a full-time software engineer working Downtown) and nearly a decade of practice wedging civic activities into a pretty full life.
Laurin, I wish you posted more often. Providing an insiders viewpoint is a great assist to any citizen thinking about applying.