Let your voice be heard

Registering and voting locally gives students a say in politics that matter

With respect for national politicians and politics at a well-deserved all-time low, it’s not difficult, or even unreasonable, to just decide that dropping out of the political game altogether is a more honorable course than participating in a system that has proven itself far too accessible to corruption by economic interests that are beyond the control of the average voting citizen.

“Maybe if I could vote on the actual operational policies of Exxon and General Motors and the Monsanto Corporation, my vote would have a real impact on what’s going on in the world,” we may think. “But as long as the multi-national corporations and their lobbyists are paying to control the votes of our so-called representatives, what the hell difference does it make if I vote or not?”

But if we shift our focus from the distant machinations of national politics to take a look at how our votes can affect local matters, participating in democracy becomes a much more easily comprehended activity.

As former Chico city councilman Dan Nguyen-Tan (pronounced Win-Tan) told me in a recent e-mail exchange: “There are enough students in Chico that if they’re politically organized and registered to vote in Butte County, they can make a huge impact on local elections and issues. Whether it’s a proposed downtown parking structure, open-space preservation or Bidwell Park issues, students have a voice, and it’s a strong voice if it’s organized through a neighborhood association or other organizing group.”

Chico City Council meetings are open to the public and allow private citizens access to address the councilmembers directly on issues that concern them. A large and vocally persuasive voting block of students and their sympathizers within the community could, perhaps, convince the council that the huge amount of publicly funded resources currently being expended to suppress student-focused celebrations such as Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day could be better used in creating events that bring student and local populations together in the manner of the popular Christmas Preview or Taste of Chico.

As Nguyen-Tan told me: “The Chico community has a history of electing and appointing people in their 20s to local offices. I was elected just after I turned 26. We’ve had other city councilors elected in their 20s during the 1970s and 1980s. We’ve also had students and recent graduates appointed to city commissions.”

He added, “I think the cliche ‘Think globally, act locally’ rings particularly true in Chico. It’s a small enough community that a student can easily take a creative idea, run with it, and meet the right community leaders and activists who can help out. If you’re willing to get involved, it won’t take long for you to get on a first-name basis with any of the members of the City Council or Board of Supervisors.”

By actively participating in local politics, you can have a direct effect on the community that is providing the setting for your continuing education. And as the town’s population continues to grow and the student community becomes a shrinking percentage of the town’s voting public, it will become more and more important for students to voice their concerns to the governing body of the community they live within.

Forging bonds of cooperation, communication, respect and appreciation between the student population and the greater voting public of Chico is of great importance and can be facilitated by students taking an active role in local politics. It’s perhaps too big a dream to think that there should always be a student representative actually on City Council, but it’s an easily realized aspiration that the student voice should always be heard in local elections. All you have to do is exercise your right to vote.

As current county supervisor and former Chico State student body president told me, “Voting may be new to you but it is time to learn about your responsibility as a citizen. Remember — your own generation is in uniform around the world helping other nations develop the democratic process.”

Political participation resources

Chico State student political groups
College Republicans: (530) 321-04882; www.csuchico.edu/repubs

Earth Peace Project: (530) 591-0974; www.earthpeaceproject.com

Green Party: (530) 345-7954

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA): (530) 899-1186; www.csuchico.edu/mecha

Student Democratic Club: (530) 898-6506

Students For Self-Government: (530) 345-7963; www.csuchico.edu/selfgov

City government

City of Chico homepage: www.chico.ca.us (community meetings calendar, public documents resource library, council members’ contact info and meeting minutes/agendas)

Chico City Council meetings: First and Third Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers, 421 Main St. Meetings televised on cable channel 11.

County government

Butte County Web site: www.buttecounty.net (county supervisors’ information, budget and general plan documents)

Voter registration forms available at:
DMV: 500 Cohasset Rd. #31

Post Office: 550 Vallombrosa Ave., and corner of 5th Street and Broadway

Chico City Clerk: 411 Main St., (530) 896-7250

Butte County Elections Office: 25 County Center Dr., Oroville, (530) 538-7761