Editorial: It's a great time to follow your government

Posted 5/28/20

It’s never been easier to take an interest in your local government and actually see what your elected leaders are doing. And in this era of executive orders and daily briefings that impact …

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Editorial: It's a great time to follow your government

Posted

It’s never been easier to take an interest in your local government and actually see what your elected leaders are doing. And in this era of executive orders and daily briefings that impact daily life, it is more important than ever to know what the government is doing and who’s making the decisions — even at the town level.

For the past couple of months, town meetings of all kinds have gone digital-only. Through your phone, laptop or tablet, you can watch a live town council meeting, zoning board hearing or school committee meeting.

Consider the flexibility this brings to your life. You can join a Zoom meeting while making dinner, surfing Facebook or enjoying a cocktail on the back deck. You can pay loose attention to the topics that don’t interest you, and follow intently those that do interest you, without anyone “in the room” really noticing what you’re doing.

Though we strongly advocate that people keep their video turned on so everyone can see who’s taking part in the public meeting, you have the flexibility to turn it off and stay dark if you’re wearing pajamas, scolding a child or taking a bathroom break (please make sure it’s off if you do that).

You also get a chance to see inside everyone’s house, which can be its own form of entertainment. Who stages themselves in front of impressive bookshelves, broadcasting their intellectual prowess for all to see? And who slouches in loungewear inside a messy den cluttered with 1950s drapes and a tired recliner?

Entertainment aside, the most important reason to start public Zooming is to remind yourself of who sits in those seats of power — and reassess whether they represent you and your interests.

What do you think about the guy who frequently votes in the minority? Is he a pain in the butt, or does he actually speak for you and the silent majority?

Do you agree with how your government is responding to the pandemic, its policies and its spending decisions while the economy teeters on the edge of disaster?

Are you surprised by how articulate and thoughtful some people are — and how not-so-much others are?

It’s also a great time to follow along, because we’re on the verge of a new election season. In a month, candidates will declare their intentions to run for office, and in November half or more of these people will be selected to lead the government for the next two or four years. Now is a great time to get to know them in ways that their campaign ads and Facebook pages can’t hide.

Lastly, it’s a great time to add your voice to the discussion. These people are making big decisions, with big impact, and they typically make them with just a handful of people watching. Do they really represent the public? And can you criticize them for not representing you, if you don’t represent yourself?

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.