These days, we are talking – and hearing – a lot about government. Most conversations are about issues in Washington D.C. or Springfield. Without discounting the importance of national and state policymakers, it could be argued that local government profoundly influences our daily lives in ways most of us forget to notice.
Recently, through University of Illinois Extension's partnership with the Illinois Municipal League, Township Officials of Illinois, and the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners, an initiative was developed to recognize the contributions of local governments to our daily lives. In March 2007, the Illinois General Assembly proclaimed the first full week in March each year as ―Local Government Week.
Local Government Week focuses on the need for strong, independent and active local government in Illinois and recognizes the valuable contributions made by citizens serving their communities in public office. Observing the week each year allows local officials to highlight the many effective programs provided by local governments and raise public awareness and understanding about the various services provided to the community.
How can you get started?
Establish a Local Government Week (LGW) planning committee. The committee will initiate, organize, and coordinate all activities relating to LGW. Committee members should include representatives from the different local government departments – sheriff, parks and recreation, health department, local school system, local Extension office, and a public information officer experienced in working with the local media. In short, all areas of local government and local schools should be involved in the planning effort.
Decide how extensive your activities will be. Plan weeklong activities or those for just one, two, or three days. Plan activities to reach different segments of your community, such as schools, community groups, business groups, and news organizations. Activities should be designed to bring the people to local government facilities or send local official representatives to where the people are.
Contact the media. Send the media an advisory alerting them of your LGW activities. This should be done a month before LGW begins. Your local government can prepare news releases focusing on the specific LGW activities for the release the day of the event.
What can your local government do to showcase its work?
Your goal is to bring citizens closer to your local government either by getting them to come to the local government facilities and learn more about your services or by going to where the people are assembled in the community. Here are some ideas:
Schedule a visit with your local schools to discuss local government jobs, how your government is organized, and the services your office provide to the community and the students
Hold an open house of your local government buildings and departments and give tours to community groups, local schools, 4-H, Boy/Girl Scouts of buildings and other facilities away from the primary government buildings, such as park, landfills, jails, police and fire stations, public works facilities
Provide informational displays in malls, libraries, schools, community centers, fairs, etc. on the services, facts, and/or history of your local government Allow students to shadow you during your work day to showcase the duties, responsibilities, and services your office provides
Sponsor a poster, essay, or coloring contest involving a local government services theme
Offer to speak to or teach a class at a local college on economic development, technology improvements, infrastructure, transportation projects, or job training
Encourage college and high school students to become involved in and aware of local issues by debating an important and timely issue
Proclaim local government week and/or day in your community
Provide local media with news releases of services your community may not be aware your local government provides
To learn more about Local government week, contact Jessica Wandless, Program Coordinator for University of Illinois Extension's Local Government Information and Education Network at 217-244-3735 or at email@example.com.
Sample Resolution for Local Governments
WHEREAS, Local government is the branch of government which is closest to the people; and WHEREAS, Illinois has more local governments than any other state; 6,700 local governments, an estimated 70,000 elected officials, and 100,000 appointed officials, providing critical services to the citizens of the State of Illinois and our communities; and
WHEREAS, Citizens do not have a clear understanding of the functions of local government; and
WHEREAS, The Partnership for Local Government Education is a collaboration formed to increase interest and involvement in local government in the State of Illinois; and
WHEREAS, The Partnership for Local Government Education is composed of the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners, the Illinois Municipal League, the Township Officials of Illinois, and the University of Illinois Extension; and
WHEREAS, The mission of the Partnership is to further the understanding of the role that local government plays in individual lives and collectively, and appreciate the many services that the various forms of local governments provide their constituents; and
WHEREAS, the Partnership first celebrated "Local Government Week" in 2007 to focus attention on the need for strong, independent and active local government in this State and recognizes the valuable contributions made by citizens serving their communities in public office;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT I/WE, [name(s), title(s) of official(s)], do hereby proclaim the first full week of March each year, as "Local Government Week" in [your local government's name].