Democratic View: Resolve now to participate in our local democracy

January is one of the toughest months of the year — and not just because the weather can be cold, gray and treacherous. What makes it tough are the resolutions. “Spend more time with family.” “Cut back on calories.” “Finish the bathroom renovation.” Fortunately, you can make resolutions anytime. Many people who helped with the recent election told me their resolution to get involved — even if it was simply by voting in the mid-terms — was triggered by something other than a date on the calendar.

For some, the decision came after the Electoral College produced a presidential campaign result that didn’t reflect the popular vote. Others stepped forward when the Affordable Care Act came under attack. For some it was the stories (or personal experience) of increased voter suppression, workplace discrimination, or anti-Semitic and racial slurs. Gun violence, state budget woes, refugee horror stories, threatened relaxation of clean air and auto emission standards, lobbyists appointed to lead federal agencies, and the #MeToo movement got people involved.

If you postponed making a resolution on Jan. 1, it’s not too late. Make one related to your standing as a citizen of Ridgefield, of Connecticut, of the United States, and it may be easier to keep than you imagine. In 2019, Ridgefielders will go to the polls on Nov. 5. No, 2019 isn’t “the big one,” but one new volunteer started helping in 2017 because doing so provided “training wheels” for 2018, when seats for state and national office were at stake. That volunteer was one of many who stepped up, and the results speak for themselves.

2019 is an important local election year. There will be 25 contests, including for first selectman, town treasurer, and seats on all the elected boards. All this may seem too much to comprehend right now, but just like cutting calories by eating one less snack, you only have to do it one small commitment at a time.

Maybe start by attending the next public meeting of a town board, commission or committee whose activities interest you. You’ll find schedules and agendas at the town website (ridgefieldct.org/boards). In doing so, you’ll gain a whole new understanding of and appreciation for our elected officials’ responsibilities (and maybe a welcome break from the tedium of another dreary winter day).

I invite you to join us at one of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee meetings, all of which are open to the public. (Visit the DTC website ridgefielddems.net for a calendar of meetings and events.) You may simply want to observe how we conduct our business, but we hope you’ll be engaged and decide to get involved — helping to recruit, interview or elect candidates; perhaps even seeking to be nominated for an elected or appointed position.

Grassroots involvement drove election results in 2018. Decisions made by town boards and commissions about mill rates, budgets, zoning, etc. affect your daily life. So, get involved now and your resolution is likely to have a positive impact on you and our community.

Aimee Berger-Girvalo is vice chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.

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