Community involvement trumps apathy

Minot Daily News’ daily reader polls are entirely unscientific and should be read that way. Online surveys such as our poll questions can’t definitively demonstrate public opinion accurately – nor even the opinions of readers of the paper. There is nothing preventing people from voting twice, nothing preventing non-residents from polling and all surveys reflect inherent biases in terms of the people who tend to take part in such polls.

Still, they occasionally offer a glimpse into public perspectives or experiences.

That’s why responses to the poll question in Wednesday’s MDN was interesting. The question was “Have you ever attended a city or county public meeting?”

As of mid-day Wednesday, approximately 65 percent of respondents said that yes, they had.

It’s an encouraging number despite, again, being unscientific, unofficial and the fact that newspaper readers tend to be more engaged in their communities than those less interested in local news.

MDN has long cited public apathy as one of the reasons many people are angry with some decisions by the city and other government bodies in the past – and why some others feel they are not kept well informed on issues going on with those institutions.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy. The best way to stay informed is engaging with government by attending public meetings, particularly when it comes to major issues with tremendous potential impact on the community. Even everyday consumers of news can’t be as on top of everything happening with their government without participating, hearing entire discussions and following items of particular personal interest.

Additionally, attending public meetings permits one to speak up, whether during the meeting or afterward with their elected representatives. It furthermore lets participants get to know those elected officials better.

If apathy has been a problem in our community – and MDN certainly believes it has been – then public participation is the cure for the problem.

Let’s hope our entirely unscientific poll proves many are engaging in the processes of their government and, better yet, that the trend is on the increase. Everyone in the community would thus benefit.