While elected officials can feel distant and unresponsive at the national and state level, citizens can have a significant effect on their elected official’s views and votes at the local level. This is even more true in recent years in Austin, where the city voted in 2014 to change from an at-large Council system to a 10-1 district representation system with an elected City Council Member for each council district and a Mayor elected by city-wide vote.
What does City Council do, and why are they important?
The Austin City Council is the body that sets policy for the City of Austin, deciding the rules and regulations that govern city departments and the overall direction of the city. In short, the decisions they make affect your life every day! When it comes to parks, City Council decides the funding and staffing the department will receive each year, directly impacting the quality of our parks and the ability of the Parks and Recreation Department to carry out its duty to maintain and activate our public parks and recreation centers. They also decide how much funding to direct to parks and open space in city bond elections, dictating the amount of public investment our parks get and the department’s ability to carry out major projects and repairs, and acquire new parkland.
How do I find out who my City Council Member is?
As you can tell, it’s important to know who your City Council Member is! Not only do they make decisions that affect your everyday life, but they can also help with issues you might experience with city services and direct you to helpful city staff. The city has a handy, user-friendly service where you can enter your address to see what council district you live in. Simply click on the link, click on the box in the upper left hand corner that says “I want to…,” click on “Find my council district,” enter your address, and click next!
What are the best ways to contact my City Council Member?
To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled Council email addresses, office phone numbers, and social media handles on our advocacy page so you can reach out in whatever way is easiest for you. At the local level, even a few people in each district reaching out on an issue can make a huge impact on the way that an elected official thinks and votes. Many Austin City Council members have shared with us how important this is, and that they want to hear from their constituents.
How can I effectively get my point across?
Council hears from a lot of people, so it’s important for you to get their attention and communicate your views effectively. Below are a few tips for the best way to make sure your voice is heard.
- Be clear and concise
Pick 2-3 main points and stick with them. Trying to cover too much ground dilutes your message, plus, when council has been on the dais for hours on end, it’s important to be concise and to the point.
- Stay on message
Consider writing out your talking points so you can have them in front of you, especially when speaking to council in-person or on the phone. Be sure to cover your main points and don’t stray too far so that your words will have more impact and be more likely to stick with the council when it is time to make a decision.
- Tell them something only you can
Your story about why you care about parks, and the impact they’ve had on you/your community/your family are important. These personal stories have a big impact on elected officials.
City Council regularly makes decisions that impact how our city functions and how our public dollars are spent. Parks are no exception! While our parks system is underfunded and in desperate need of some TLC, City Council can make the decision to begin properly funding our parks system through the upcoming bond and annual city budget. So get out there and make your voice heard – make sure your Council Member knows that parks matter to you and should be a priority!