In December, Mayor Jim Desmond visited San Elijo Middle School (SEMS) to speak with 8th grade history students. Che Love, a history teacher at SEMS, has been walking students through the process of contacting their representatives and showing them the importance of civic engagement – starting at a local level and working their way up to a national level.
As an option to their community service requirement, students were encouraged to identify a community issue that they are passionate about. From there, students researched that issue to see what local officials had or had not done to address the concern. After rigorous research, students learned how to locate the appropriate official, their bios and contact information. Next up, was learning how to write a letter to that official presenting their concern and potential solutions they would propose.
About 125 students participated in sending letters to various elected officials. About a third of these letters were addressed to Mayor Desmond regarding local concerns. After receiving the letters, the Mayor offered to come speak to the students directly to answer their questions, explain how our local city operates and how their concerns are being addressed.
What was so amazing is that students got to see firsthand how their actions lead to further action. Having the Mayor respond by spending time with them through his visit directly illustrated how small actions like letter-writing are heard and generate a response. Students spent about a half hour in the Performing Arts Center with the Mayor, asking questions, offering solutions and letting the Mayor know the issues that concern them most. Questions included what is being done to address traffic, safety and how the budget it prioritized.
It was such a fantastic example of what civic engagement is all about. Sometimes we forget the power that we have as individuals – that our elected officials work for us (not the other way around) and that it’s up to us to ensure our officials are doing their job and addressing our concerns. Most importantly, remembering that engagement is not something that happens only on election day. It’s a daily thing. It’s about showing up at meetings. Reading notices. Getting to know the people we are electing into office. Writing letters. Making calls. Speaking up. Offering constructive feedback and potential solutions.
In San Marcos, we are so fortunate that our elected officials are so accessible. There is really no excuse for any of us to not know these folks on a personal level. By attending school board meetings, city council meetings and planning commission meetings, you can get to know the issues, current projects and what’s coming down the pipeline for our community as far as development, safety, traffic and how our tax dollars are being spent.
We will be looking at another ballot in 2018, so now is the time to start paying attention, getting to know the players and making sure your voice is in the mix. As Chris Orlando shared in the last issue of SHARE, the City of San Marcos is being split into Districts for City Council seats. Our district here in San Elijo (District 2) will be electing a new City Council representative in 2018 as Chris’ seat is term-limited. So, it’s time to get engaged and pay attention even here in our backyard.
Whatever concern as a resident and as a citizen, please recognize that just like these students, your voice is heard when you speak out. And, we all know the squeaky wheel tends to get addressed first, so make sure you ‘squeak’ when it matters most to you.
Here are some resources to get you quickly connected to your elected official or to get engaged in the process from here in our backyard all the way up to Washington.
- For an Understanding of Common Areas, Landscaping, Community Events – www.sanelijohills.net.
- The Board Meets every other month at 5PM starting January 3.
- To make sure you get notifications, join the community email list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For all things public school-related on a district level. www.smusd.org
- For all things city-related: Traffic, Police/Fire, Budget, Planning, Etc.
- City Council Meetings are usually on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday at 6PM
- Planning Commission Meetings are usually on the 1st Monday at 6:30PM
- See City website for current calendar: www.san-marcos.net
Contact your City Officials
- Mayor Jim Desmond – email@example.com
City Council Members:
- Rebecca Jones – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chris Orlando – email@example.com
- Kristal Jabara – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sharon Jenkins – email@example.com
Find your Senator
- www.senate.gov (Easy access to mailing address, phone & link to contact)
Find your Representative
- House of Representatives: www.house.gov/representatives/find/ (Easy access to mailing address, phone & link to contact)
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court Bldg.
Washington, DC 20543