If you want to be part of the solution, be part of the system.
That means paying attention, and making your voice heard.
I’m talking about the public comment process. The state (Michigan in this case) and federal government routinely put out draft documents for public comment.These are documents in danger of being read (and not being read). If you keep tabs, you’ll find major policy decisions being floated. I’m not suggesting that anyone in government is trying to pull a fast one. I’m saying that more people need to become aware of how government works, and be involved in the process.
Here are some tips:
1. Read your daily newspaper, especially the fine print in the Classifieds section. You might find a proposed rate increase from your electric utility or a zoning change for farmland (Wal-Mart).
2. Pick your passion. You can’t keep track of everything. But take steps to be informed, by signing up for e-mail updates from agencies of interest, and environmental watchdog groups that keep tabs on proposals. Examples include the Sierra Club, which issues action alerts on various issues. Call your city, county, state or federal representative for help in navigating the waters.
3. Just do it. Most public comment processes don’t even require you to attend a meeting, or use a stamp. You can examine documents online and make your views known in an e-mail. But consider meetings, too. They are a good chance to meet decision-makers , ask one-on-one questions and make your comments in person, which speaks louder than the digital word.
4. Double your input, and tell a friend.
Some examples of places to find information include:
- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality calendar, with consent agreements, other proposals up for comment and meeting dates;
- The Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates major electric and gas utilities, and the emerging renewable energy field;
- The Michigan Environmental Council, a one-stop shop representing major green groups in the state;
- The Federal Register, the big dog when it comes to major decisions. You can subscribe to receive a Table of Contents every day by e-mail. Just the other day, a notice came across on endangered species in Michigan, which was the impetus for this post.
Readers who have more suggestions for Michigan, their state or the federal government, please post them in the comments section, and I’ll do an “In danger of being read: Part 2.”