In Danger of Being Read

premasagar via flickr

Permission from flickr

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.”

5 Responses to “In Danger of Being Read”

  1. I am in total agreement with Jeff. U.S.A. Today allows
    comments on all of it’s reports. Unfortunately, there
    are many other news sites which do not allow for comments. A letter to the editor is required. Actually
    when making a comment, there will always be someone in
    disagreement and then the blogging flogging begins. Too
    often it becomes political. An innocent comment taken out of context can practically signal a start of the next world war. I am from the NJ/NY Metropolitan area
    if that explains some of what I mean.

  2. Lois,
    Do you ever get involved in commenting on issues to your state or local government? Just curious. What’s your passion? Environment, taxes, zoning, etc.?

  3. Jeff,
    My passion is environment. Seldom am I able to comment
    on a written article in the news without sending a letter to someone or other. I even am forced to send mail to newspapers suggesting they take a long hard look
    at this site. If they bothered to read Time Magazine,
    perhaps some might. It’s appeal is that it is international, non-political, not preachy and offers
    very good suggestions.

  4. Thanks for the good words. I found out about this site through Time magazine. Spread the word.

    - Jeff.

  5. GR8 Info, what are other good sites to confirm this info?

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