As soon as I became the public face of Open Boulder, people began asking me how they — with their busy lives filled with work, play, and family – could lend a hand to their city and county. This, after all, is one of Open Boulder’s primary missions: To open up city and county government to greater numbers and diversity of residents. But people feel intimidated by the time commitment and loss of anonymity involved in running for office. So what can just regular folks (leaving aside that almost no one in Boulder feels “regular”) do? In honor of David Letterman, here are the top seven:
- Run for office. No, really! Twelve years ago, I, too, was a “regular” Boulderite happily ensconced in my life of work (for a national non-profit), family (a wife, and plans for a family that would arrive two years later), and lots of fun in the outdoors. But then something or someone (you know who you are) persuaded me to take a shot at serving the city as a Councilor. And I can report that the hours indeed are insane, but the rewards are substantial as well. What’s more, the city needs you: It needs people who are practical and civic-minded, but who have other lives as well. If anyone reading this is interested, contact us at Open Boulder!
- Serve on a Board or Commission. Sounds boring, yeah. But really, it’s not. The city and county rely on volunteers to serve as conduits between public opinion and local government. And serving on a substantive board will bring you right into the middle of your area of special interest. Application deadline for this year is 5 p.m. this Thursday, February 12. Here are the instructions.
- Write a letter. Open Boulder was formed out of concern that input into major city decisions was dominated by a small group of long-time residents. This one takes almost no time at all. Make your voice heard, either with a letter to the Daily Camera, or directly to Council. We can help.
- Show up. Woody Allen famously remarked that 80% of success is showing up. A small number of residents have been (to their great credit) taking advantage of this truth for years. So next time you get invited to a civic event, or the Council is debating something of interest, find a baby-sitter, cancel evening work (you don’t want to do it anyway), and show up!
- Volunteer. Strange as it sometime sounds, Boulder city and county are full of needs: Human service needs (our poverty level is actually above national average), open space management, arts, and on and on. The greatest gift you can offer your home town for what it gives you, is to give back your time.
- Create your own (small-p) political network. Everyone has concentric circles of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to whom they are connected, and with whom they socialize. Make it a point to keep your network informed about what’s going on in the city. The enemy of an informed, wise government is the ignorance of its residents. It doesn’t have to be heavy. Just make sure your network is as informed as you.
- Join Open Boulder. We were created by a band of seven local professionals because we felt city governance was becoming too dominated by a single philosophy and a single group of residents. But Boulder has changed: It’s a city (and county) of creative young entrepreneurs, of thriving tech and natural foods industries, of cutting edge artists, and busy families. We want those people front and center, and if you want to help get that done, go to OpenBoulder.org.
Hope to see you around town, and please give me a shout if you’re interested in what we’re doing! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Boulder is our February Featured Friend. We will bring you stories on the group in this space throughout the month.