Does it really matter if people show up to government meetings to make public comment?
Sometimes it is hard to see the difference it makes when people speak up at school board meetings, County Board of Supervisor meetings, or in the General Assembly. Does it really matter if anyone speaks in support or opposition to a policy during public comment periods? Can those few minutes really make any difference?
I assure you, it does.
Over the past two weeks I have seen what a difference public testimony can make.
National organizations pushing for the passage of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment have been trying to get county Board of Supervisors to pass resolutions supporting their legislative agenda. They have had significant success.
Despite the fact that the ERA is a moot issue (having failed to meet the 1982 deadline), and despite the fact that no one can point to any positive legal change that the ERA would accomplish (since women and men are already equally protected under the 14th amendment), this effort to pass county resolutions has been very effective.
In the 17 jurisdictions that have been targeted to pass these resolutions, 14 have passed them (or added the issue to their legislative agenda), 2 are considering the resolutions, and only 1 decided not to pass such a resolution.
That one jurisdiction that decided not to pass the ERA resolution was Prince William County.
What makes Prince William County different from Powhatan County and all the others that passed the ERA resolution?
In Prince William County, there were dozens of women who spoke up in opposition to the ERA. Those voices made a difference. The Board of Supervisors chose to reject the ERA resolution after hearing that testimony.
Your voice makes a difference.
Where speakers spoke up in Prince William County, the ERA failed without getting anyone to second the idea. But when six people spoke up in support of the ERA without opposition in the city of Chesapeake, the resolution passed unanimously.
Speak up. You can speak at your local county or city leadership meetings, your school board meetings, and here in Richmond during the General Assembly.
If you want more information about speaking up in your local government meetings or in Richmond, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (804) 343-0010 ext. 240.
P.S. Here is another example of the power of speaking up. Last night so many people spoke up at the Loudoun County School Board on the question of the religious exemption for homeschooling that that Board was moved to reconsider the question they had already decided.