Something to Think About: Thoughts from the Capitol
March 9, 2016
Watching the news, it’s easy to feel a little bit hopeless. Night after night, all I see on TV are reports about how a certain candidate said a terrible thing, or how these politicians can’t agree on anything. We hear about the do-nothing Congress, the deterioration of the Republican Party, and we can’t help but feel like the political apocalypse is looming.
Well, I am here to say that, despite all of the disappointment and corruption and partisanship, government still works.
Crazy, right? Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either.
But this week I had the very special opportunity to discover that, at our very core, we still exist as a government that is by the people and for the people.
On Sunday, I went to DC with the Tampa Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council to attend the National League of Cities. I attended this event last November as well. Essentially, the purpose of the conference is to connect city officials with one another in an effort to learn about methods that can improve their municipalities. However, as opposed to the Nashville conference, the event in DC is designed with the specific purpose of connecting local elected officials to the federal government.
Over the course of the four days that I was in DC, I heard from panels consisting of cabinet secretaries and assistant attorney generals. I listened to a general session address from Ana Navarro, RNC political strategist. All of these people involved in federal government and national elections came to NLC and tried to make sense of the confusing political climate in which we live. Ultimately, the consensus was the same: national politics may be pretty messed up, but local government still works.
Frankly, there’s not much of a choice. You can’t filibuster a zoning hearing. You can’t decide to shut down the sanitation department.
The way I see it, every time your water successfully turns on, it’s a victory for our system of government. The same goes for each time your trash gets picked up or you drive down Bayshore Boulevard.
As a local elected official, you can’t ignore your constituents; they live down the street. It’s difficult to continue to feel that connection when you work in a wood-paneled office in DC.
Nevertheless, a sense of accountability to the electorate still exists. On Wednesday, my group met with the staffs of five Florida members of Congress: Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Congressman Ross, Congressman Bilirakis and Congresswoman Castor. We presented them with our concerns on issues ranging from mental health to the militarization of space, and even if they didn’t agree with our particular stance, they still listened.
Yes, I could just be being incredibly naïve, but I choose to believe that what I think matters. They represent me, after all.
And that is what is so fundamental about our democracy and so great about our government. Your voice matters most.
Isabel Giovannetti is a senior at Robinson High School. She loves politics and is part of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council.