Stop bitching, start changing

Shelley Blundell

In South Africa, we have a saying: You have to be in it to win it.

This phrase largely applies to games of chance such as the lottery, but I think it has a much deeper meaning, especially when applied to American politics.


As a mere mortal, sans trust fund, I must participate in the working world to pay my bills. Having always been a fan of killing two birds with one stone, I am working for a local newspaper this summer to earn revenue and fulfill my internship requirement.

At the paper, one of my responsibilities is covering local meetings, which I’m sure most people declare boring and ignore.

That’s the problem.

How often have you driven down your street and cursed mercilessly at the pothole you somehow manage to drive through every day, no matter how hard you try to avoid it?

What about that vacant lot owned by some company across the street from your house? It’s filled with weeds and garbage and is a real eyesore you wish someone would take care of.

Or better yet, isn’t it time your children’s school started serving better lunches?

Issues such as road maintenance, property control and school nutrition are all discussed at one of America’s greater public forum venues – its local government meetings.

But how many people do you know who take the time to learn what’s going on in their local government? At that, how often do you pay attention?

Local government operations are a luxury few other countries share, regardless of whether they are democracies. To be given a forum to influence or even change policy at the base level of government is something all Americans should participate in.

For example – did you know most cities have a noxious weed ordinance, meaning vacant lots owned by a company still have to be maintained? This also applies to properties such as houses or businesses. The owners of these tracts of land have a duty to the city to maintain them. If they don’t, long-term penalties include a city cleaning intervention resulting in a hefty maintenance bill.

Then there are petitions to repair a severely damaged city road – they often go a long way toward having the road repaired in a timely manner.

And what about Lucy’s lunch? Most public schools have regular meetings to discuss things such as educational curriculum, school administrative policies and – you guessed it – lunch programs and their nutritional value.

OK, so I bet you’re wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” Here’s why things like this can apply to you.

Think Dining Services has lost its flair for flavorful food? Is the grass getting a little too long between buildings? And how many times have you almost been hit by a PARTA bus? Same type of complaints, same type of public forums – Undergraduate Student Senate meetings, to name just one.

So like I said, if there are things you think need to be changed, then go ahead and say something where it counts.

Because, trust me, that pothole isn’t going to fix itself.

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].