Local participation creates change
By Roth Leahy - Staff Reporter
If you want to see change in politics, you have to get involved, two Highline professors said here last week.
Political science professors Dr. Ben Gonzalez and Dr. T.M. Sell told a crowd of about 50 people on April 20 that in order to get change, you have to take action.
Dr. Gonzalez related his own experience, in which he got the city of Lake Forest Park, where he lives, to adopt the status of a "sanctuary city" despite opposition from the mayor and initial indifference from the city council.
In a sanctuary city, officials agree to not actively support federal efforts to deport undocumented residents.
Dr. Gonzalez said they used social media and sheer numbers to convince the council to adopt the resolution.
"Talks were occurring every week with general public comments, phone calls and emails," Dr. Gonzalez said.
This activism encouraged some council members to sit down and discuss, face-to-face, why Lake Forest Park should be considered a sanctuary city, despite opposition from the city's mayor.
A resolution was then introduced and passed.
"People who had proclaimed that Lake Forest Park should not be considered a sanctuary city, did not show up," he said.
Dr. Gonzalez said that protests could be effective but they have to be focused and sustained. He also urged students to write their elected officials and show up at gatherings such as town hall meetings and city council sessions.
People can have a bigger impact at the local level, he said.
"Even in your own community, even though it is smaller, it creates a bigger impact," Dr. Gonzalez said.
Both professors urged students to vote, and more often than just in presidential years.
"The presidential race was said to be the highest among voting rates in our country, state and local voting rates were only around 30 percent," Dr. Gonzalez said.
"There's an election every year," Dr. Sell said.
The main reason why Trump had won the election was due to low voter turnout, Dr. Gonzalez said.
"Politics are not perfect, it is important to get involved now. Get involved early and get into the system to help change minds," Dr. Gonzalez said.
"Some ways that people can get involved in the political process are to vote, protest, contact officials, contribute money, and to run for office," Dr. Sell said.
Dr. Sell said that in fact it's relatively easy to get informed, from reading media reports to attending candidate forums, to getting the state voters pamphlet automatically when you register to vote.
Dr. Sell said your vote always counts because margin of victory matters in every election. Even if your candidate is likely to lose, for example, the closer he or she gets, the more likely the candidate you don't like gets serious opposition next time around.
Conversely, the more your candidate wins by, the less likely they are to face serious opposition in the next election.
Some reasons that people usually do not choose to participate is due to "the lack of time, lack of interest, not enough information on a candidate, protest a candidate, don't like a candidate and the usual saying of someone's vote not counting," Dr. Sell said.