Citizens’ duty to participate in government



The right to criticize our government is one that I fully honor, support and agree with. But it bothers me to see venom spewed without direction.

People are very quick to remember that our government is “for” the people, and yet more often than not, the “by” the people eludes them.

I’d like to propose an amendment, as follows, to a popular saying:

America: Love it, leave it or get off your rear and govern it.

We have a duty as citizens to participate in our government. It’s part of the deal.

That means voting. That means paying taxes (to those few of you who don’t use public roads or schools or the police or the fire department, ignore that). That means participating in the legal system when we are called to jury duty.

And it means, and this is key, if we have a problem with our government, we have a duty to address it with responsible action.

Sometimes, that’s as simple as writing a letter to a representative. Sometimes it means going to the state or federal Congress to present our views formally or informally.

For the record — it never means to whine on Facebook unless you are doing so in a way that promotes further knowledge and intelligent exploration of the issue at hand and presents a logical action to redress your issue (for example, a link to more information, a plea to contact reps, whatever) and accepting and respecting that people will not always share your views or passion.

And when that isn’t enough, and you still have problems, you have the final duty of a citizen — to participate in your government.

Let’s take a look at some numbers — I’ll start big and get smaller, so don’t get discouraged.

Lexington has about 300,000 people. Getting on the Urban City Council of Lexington took an average of about 3,000 votes — that’s 1 percent of the population.

There are 12 districts, each with one representative, and then six representatives-at-large voted upon by all districts.

Seven of the 12 district seats ran unopposed in 2010. What does that mean? It means either everyone is in perfect agreement with the representatives (who are predominately white, college educated and older than 40 years of age, incomes unknown) or people aren’t doing their civic duty.

This means you can effectively divide those 3,000 votes in two and say that it takes about 1,500 votes to get on the council. District one took only 900 votes.

Let’s look at a few more. To be a state representative in the 47th District (Oldham County) took 2,000 votes. Unopposed.

Now, if 2,000 votes sounds intimidating, look at these numbers:

It took 1,000 votes to become the mayor of the city of Crestwood, who ran unopposed.

It took 269 votes to become the mayor of the city of Goshen. That’s not a typo. Also unopposed.

It took 364 votes to become the mayor of Pewee Valley.

The entire city council of Pewee Valley ran unopposed, with an average of 22 votes.

It took 30 votes to become the mayor of Prospect. Unopposed.

Now, you may make the argument that Prospect Valley isn’t that big. So, more numbers.

The population of Prospect is 5,838. Let’s assume roughly half are legally old enough to vote, and then half again of those old enough to vote actually bother. That’s about 1,500 people.

You need to reach 22 — 22 out of 1,500. Manageable? Yeah. Yeah.

To check out your own Kentucky city, the results for the 2010 election are at Just click on your county and take a look.

So, do your research. Run for office. You’re 18, you’re old enough (note — some state representative spots require 24 years of age or older, but most city councils are 18).

If you’re old enough to complain, you’re old enough to act like a citizen.