It has always seemed to me that the stereotype surrounding local government is that it is something to be overlooked or forgotten by the larger public, something not worth following. Shows like “Parks and Recreation,” a comedy that follows Indiana government employees, portray public hearings as a time when city employees are forced to put up with the town’s most out-of-touch individuals and craziest characters. While this makes for funny situations and a funny show overall, I have found that, at least in Carmel, nothing could be further from the truth.
Last week’s public hearing on the proposed gas station at 146th Street and Gray Road was proof that, not only are many Carmel residents paying attention to their local government, they are actively participating in it. Members of homeowner associations came up with calculated and constructed presentations complete with Powerpoints and laser pointers while other residents simply put in their two cents before returning to their seats. One Carmel resident even did the bravest thing of all: he voiced an unpopular opinion amidst a group of those who thought and believed differently than he. As the only resident willing to support the proposed gas station during the hearing, the man publicly brandished himself an outcast, even joking that he was speaking “at the risk of having (his) tires slashed after the meeting.”
It was in that moment that I realized how beneficial it is to have an invested and informed public actively being a part of local government. While we all love to complain about something after the fact, it takes a bit more of an investment to be informed enough to voice your opinion about something before it happens, potentially changing the future of not only that specific proposal itself, but of the city going forward.
Today, many people are pessimistic, jaded and, perhaps worst of all, apathetic to all things government and politics related, and maybe they always have been, but there is really nothing quite like seeing people stand up for what they believe in. Whether the topic is nearby construction or something as vitally important as civil and human rights, one thing is clear: Caring in any and all of its forms – caring about your city, caring about your family, caring about your rights, caring about yourself and caring about others – is a vital component of any democracy.
So, what is it you care about?