by Paul J. Sniadecki, President
Eagle Lake Improvement Association, Inc.
The 2012 General Election is less than 1 month away, and by November 20, the newly elected candidates will be sworn-in and “hold” office. Hopefully, based on this series of articles, there will be some new “Riparian-Minded Candidates” who will assume local office in your area. So, is this the last of these types of articles and the election process is over? Well, YES and NO, and not so fast!
Twelve months ago we set out to outline the actions needed to run for office at the local level. We identified the key steps to be taken each month during the past year. With the General Election about to happen, there are no more “technical” steps to take. So, YES, this will be the last article in the series. However, this does not mean the election process is over.
Rather, the election process continues, and is never really over (ends) because now it is up to you to ensure public officials “hold to” their election promises. This is can only be accomplished effectively through participation. Because Planning and Zoning are decentralized in Michigan, there will always be potential threats to our lakes, rivers and watersheds. You can become aware of any new threat because it should first surface at local Board, Planning Commission, or Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Meetings. So, participation in the on-going business of local government is a fundamental responsibility of each Riparian in Michigan.
So, how does one ensure “participation?” Lake Associations should consider having a member attend each and every Board of Trustee, County Commissioner, County Road Commission, Planning Commission, and ZBA meeting in your area. Develop a meeting calendar for the year, and try to send a member to each meeting. You don’t have to say anything at a meeting, but sitting in the front row of each session ensures the elected or appointed officials are aware of your interest and on-going participation. It will help hold them “accountable” for protecting your local water resources. While this requires a large “time” investment, it can yield great benefits. In addition to being on the look-out for any potential threats, meeting attendees will learn about the on-going work of local government. This can begin to “develop” a person who might run for local office in the next election. Also, the actions/votes taken at each meeting can document the “Riparian Minded” track record for each elected official, which can be used during the next campaign season. Further, never underestimate the occasional entertainment value of observing local officials in action, or inaction! The drama or comedy is often more interesting than what is on TV on any given night.
If your area has been lacking in a Master Plan, Zoning Ordinance provisions, and/or funding to protect water resources, then working with the “new” elected officials can begin to create the foundation to achieve those objectives. Consider “November” to be a fresh start for everyone. So, how does one “work with” newly elected officials? Again, the answer is “participation” at local governmental meetings. Just be sure your meeting attendees exhibit friendliness and objectivity to ensure a “cooperative approach.” As the saying goes, “Honey always attracts more flies…”
In closing, no one promised this would be an easy or a “fast” way to achieve Riparian Minded officials in local government. However, through diligent, on-going participation much can be accomplished. It takes time and effort NOW to protect our water resources for future generations. Are you and your Riparian Association up to the on-going challenge to influence local government?
Editor’s Note: This is the final in a yearlong series of articles that appeared in this newsletter regarding the upcoming general election. As Mr. Sniadecki has so effectively illustrated in his articles, local elections present Michigan voters with an outstanding opportunity to foster constructive, community-based pre-election discussion and debate focused on the important role of local government in the wise management of Michigan’s wealth of lake and stream resources. Thank-you, Paul !!!