Ten steps to becoming a better citizen
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 9, 2003 - - With all of the complaining people do about government, they might want to remember what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence - - that if democracy wasn't working, they should change it.

There are countless ways citizens can perform individual acts to make their communities stronger and America better. Here is a Top Ten list for how to be a better citizen:

Vote. Only half of South Carolinians eligible to vote are registered and a little over half of those actually vote. In the recent Charleston mayoral election, less than 40 percent of the city's 52,000 voters went to the polls. Of the 19,000 who voted, just over 10,000 - - one in five of those registered to vote - - backed winner Joe Riley. When you think of the impact a mayor has on the government process, it's pretty sad to think a minority of potential voters actually participated in the process. If you don't vote and help select our leaders, you shouldn't complain about taxes, water rates, electricity rates, traffic, noise, development and more.

Commit public service. Local governments are always looking for people to become involved in the governing process. You can apply to serve on a local board. Or if you're really frustrated, you can take the public service plunge, run for office and kick the old buzzards out.

Join a civic group. Local clubs and organizations enrich a community's life. From a Rotary Club that mentors at schools to a garden club that beautifies a town, you can become a bigger part of the community by getting more involved.



McLEMORE'S WORLD: Some people show up everywhere

FEEDBACK: Manufacturing woes


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Stay informed. Part of being a good citizen is keeping up with what goes on in your community. Read a newspaper, watch the TV news, listen to the radio or get news on the Internet. By staying informed, you'll be able to join more in community debate in your neighborhood, at your workplace and in your church or synagogue.

Meet your neighborhood. With more people living in subdivisions, neighborhoods have dramatically changed. Many folks don't know their neighbors. You'll feel like more of a part of your town or area if you invite folks in for coffee, host a block party or organize a neighborhood watch.

Attend public meetings. Local governments have dozens of meetings every month to discuss things that directly affect you and your community. Often, however, the only people at the meeting are members of the board and a reporter. By attending public meetings, you can have direct input into the process - - and perhaps affect public policy.

Write a letter to the editor. If you see something going on that really makes your blood boil, send a letter to the local newspaper. Not only will it make you feel better but you'll be surprised how many people read it and think the same way. Politicians read these letters and are influenced by them.

Volunteer in your community. Children's sports teams need coaches. School children need mentors and readers. Clubs need members. Roadways need to be cleaned of litter. Church groups need leaders and participants. Pick some activity you enjoy and volunteer your time. You'll meet new people and have a good time.

Support a local cause. In addition to volunteering, you may want to consider donating money to local organizations. Many non-profits - - and even some churches - - have suffered due to the down economy. Your charitable (tax-deductible) giving can go a long way to help organizations complete their missions.

Smile. With the pace of our lives moving frenetically, we often forget to relax and slow down. If we periodically took stock of what we really cared about, priorities would be clearer. And more than likely, all of those things that lead drivers to road rage and parents to yell would take on less meaning. It's often said that the more people smile, the better they'll feel about themselves and their communities.

A 1960's-era bumper sticker urges people to question authority. That's good, but you have to be willing to do more than just question to get real change.

Some people show up everywhere

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

11/2: Some appointments OK

To the editor:

I believe some appointments may be OK but others should be by the voters, for example: I would state that most magistrates have not been reappointed since their initial
appointment. Some Senators like to carry their appointments in their "hip pocket", where at the drop of a pin, he can remove that magistrate whenever he wants another one. That
process was in affect in Cherokee County in the early l990's and Senator Harvey S. Peeler, Jr., was successful in having a "rider" included in the budget that deleted any funds for Veterans Affairs Office as long as I was VA Officer

-- Boyd McLean, Gaffney, S.C.



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