Building Local Political Voice & Power

Primary author: Pam Brown

I have ideas that can reflect the town of State Line and what needs to be here in order for this to be a productive place.

Tanya N. Taylor, pictured left, interview #6-1-07

What is in this tool?

This tool is to help you think about how you can make your local formal political process easier to understand for everyone in town. It is also to give you some ideas for how to facilitate your community members building their voice through self-made action.

In speaking with my community I have come to the realization they also feel like they have none in county or state governments. When I asked in my community some of the following questions I found out that they may know who the governor, senator, or mayor is but they didn’t know you could actually contact them.

Understanding political systems is key to influencing them. Being able to have a say in the direction of shared decision making (like what tax money is spent on, or whether a dollar store can move into main street) is important for community-level self-determination. Having a voice also plays a strong role in individual self-determination, and how locals experience life in their town. Feeling pushed around, not knowing who to go to with a complaint, and never being asked your opinion can make people feel isolated and insecure. Short and long term community groups can arise to fill gaps not being addressed by a local municipality (for example, beautifying main street), or to address a shared concern (for example, windmills being installed too close to their neighborhood). Libraries often play an infrastructural role in supporting groups–without advocating for a specific political position–including providing space, filling informational needs, or providing a copier. Because libraries tend to be aware of which groups exist, they also help connect individuals to groups that might be of interest to them.

LISTEN: “I can’t run because I don’t live within the city limits. But I have ideas that can reflect– because I live here–they reflect the town of State Line and what needs to be here in order for this to be a productive place. It can be small but it can be productive.” Tanya, interview #6-1-07

Further Resources

Want to read about a small town trying to build their political voice? See the Stateline, Mississippi case study.

What to learn more about ways to give people more agency over their lives? Try the tools, Pathways to Belonging: To Be Seen & Feel Known and Is Everyone Welcome at Your Library.