Another View: Understand who represents you in government — at all levelsBy: Randi Swisley, guest columnist
Running government is big business, and large amounts of money from taxes are used to run that business. Every citizen pays some kind of taxes and is, therefore, a shareholder in government. The more eligible people there are who choose to vote, the more qualified people there are who choose to serve, and the more concerned citizens there are who express their opinions, the better the government performs.
Whether or not the services of government are adequately provided, without waste, is determined by the kind of officials the voters elect. This means that voting citizens need to know how government is organized, how it works, what the problems are, who the elected officials are, and what they are doing to ensure that the affairs of their jurisdiction are administered in the best interests of all its citizens.
Taking into account federal, state, county, city and special district representatives, each citizen may have 50 elected officials representing their interests — and also may have a different set of representatives from the person who lives directly across the street. Personally, 15 elected officials represent me at the state and national level. Twenty city, county and special districts and departments have multiple representatives for whom I also vote.
Why so many? Generally, as an area grows and develops, its residents find that their needs change. As they adjust, they may decide that there is a community need for a specific purpose or service such as fire protection, water management or mosquito control. Working with their state representative, residents legally define the geographic boundaries of the proposed districts, the scope of the special purpose, and the method of governing the district. If there is enough evidence of community need and support deemed by the local legislative delegation, the proposal is submitted for adoption by both houses of the state Legislature. It is then sent to the governor and finally ratified by a majority vote of registered voters within the proposed district.
Once the district is approved, governing officials are elected with the authority to levy taxes to provide equipment, facilities and staff.
You can easily find a full list of the elected officials representing you on the Placer County Elections website, www.placerelections.com. The “Elections Info” tab at the top of the homepage reveals a drop down menu. Clicking on “My Representatives” from that drop down menu takes you to a page asking for your street address so it can identify and list the representatives specific to you.
Elected officials are half of the government chosen by the voters. The other half consists of legislative bills and ballot initiatives.
States get money from taxes, commercial fees, federal grants and bonds. States spend money according to legislative appropriations and budgets prepared by governors. The more clearly citizens understand legislation, the more accurately the government will represent their needs.
If you have ever felt under-represented by your government, it is not because there are not enough people out there with the responsibility to represent you. Those representatives should know how you feel. If they don’t, you may want to tell them. Sometimes we think that, of course, our needs are known. It is an error to make this assumption.
The best way to have input into government processes is to communicate with your representatives directly through mail, a phone call, e-mail or in person.
Randi Swisley is president
of the League of Women
Voters of Placer County.