There was a lot going on in 2018. Record numbers of Americans voted in the midterm elections. We lost the Queen of Soul. Portland was named America's Best Pizza City by an "international pizza consultant," whatever that is.
While it's important to stay informed about what's happening in our world, the connection to our daily lives isn't always clear. We all have a role to play in shaping the future of our country and our community and participation in democracy at the local level is where most of us can make a real difference. Thankfully, finding an outlet for civic engagement is easier than you might think. Here are a few ideas to get you started in 2019.
Read the (local) news
In Portland we're fortunate to still have a variety of news outlets producing in-depth coverage of local issues. So consider taking the next step: get a subscription or make a donation to support local journalism.
Attend a neighborhood meeting
Getting involved with your neighborhood association is a great way to meet your neighbors and learn about what's going on in your hyperlocal community. It doesn't matter whether you rent or own your home, all are welcome. Portland's Bureau of Community & Civic Life makes it easy to find out what neighborhood you live in and learn what meetings are on the calendar. What's more, the city is currently working with citizen advisers on ways to actively broadening community engagement to ensure that engagement opportunities are welcoming and inclusive.
Join a committee
The city, region, and state convene dozens of advisory committees to help inform and guide policy decisions. Some relate directly to specific industries, while others oversee bond projects or advance specific policy priorities. That many committees can feel overwhelming, but it also means there are hundreds of opportunities to get involved!
Not seeing an open position or the right fit? There are hundreds of other opportunities across the city, including committees within neighborhood associations or PTA groups.
Share your opinion
Have you ever answered questions to find out your Hogwarts house or Golden Girls alter ego? Take your online survey game to the next level with Opt In, an online survey tool to gather opinions on civic issues that affect the region. You can also dig through the data to see what your neighbors think about local parks, transportation, waste management, and the Urban Growth Boundary.
City agencies are looking for your feedback too. Right now, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is asking Portlanders to weigh in on plans to make 122nd Avenue safer and more accessible. Then join email lists for Metro and city agencies, or follow them on social media to receive updates about projects, hearings, and community meetings.
Dig into the big issues
In 2018, Business for a Better Portland hosted policy workgroups to educate our members and take action in support of the regional housing bond, the Portland Clean Energy Fund, and opportunities to improve the city's transportation network.
In 2019, we'll have more opportunities for civic engagement, including coffees with public leaders from around the region and workgroups on important issues like housing, livability, and transportation.
Listen, learn, and let your voice be heard
There's no better way to understand how decisions are being made for your community than by attending a council or commission meeting. Meetings of the Portland City Council, the Planning and Sustainability Commission, the Portland Public Schools Board and Metro Council are all open to the public and include opportunities for public comment.
Business for a Better Portland can help navigate the crowded public meeting schedule to identify opportunities for businesses to share their perspectives as elected officials are making big decisions. Elected officials also accept written comments ahead of time — writing a personal note or joining with others to submit a letter can help
provide valuable information to decision-makers.
If I can suggest one thing you can do to make the world a better place in 2019, it's this: Find one civic activity to engage in each month of the year. OK, that's 12 things — but you can do it! Put a meeting on your calendar early. Bring a friend. Challenge yourself to show up and get involved. Your city needs you.