Recently, when talking with a constituent, I was reminded of one of the reasons why the political system is so broken. As we were discussing my background in journalism, she paused and told me, “If I do not hear it from you, I do not know if it’s true or not.” It struck me. In a country where we work tirelessly to protect free speech, often that speech is exactly what we do not value. This is for good reason. It is impossible to understand the interests and biases of the news we are hearing. It is difficult to discern fact from fiction. In a country with constant breaking news and information, we are left with only one criterion that determines who we listen to: connection. We listen and trust the people who are present and communicate to our interests.
As a representative, I want to be part of cultivating civic trust. The current representative of District 13 has gone to zero school board meetings. Meanwhile, as a candidate I have gone to four of the meetings and was surprised when I saw there was very low turnout to these sessions when they cover such crucial issues. In District 13, the Park Hill School District was ranked 11th in the entire state for the quality of education. Public education is at the heart of the future for every family and community. If we want to continue to create change that benefits the whole of our communities, we have the responsibility to show up, to listen, and to act. This is not just the promise of my campaign—this is what I am already doing.
As a candidate, I have held and will continue to hold listening sessions at various locations in the district that are open to everyone. I want to hear from you. I want to establish a connection with the community. This is not about political parties; this is about people. What are your thoughts and your issues? How can I, as a representative, be open and transparent?
The National Election Study began researching trust in government in 1958. At that time, an average 75% of Americans claimed to trust the government to, for the most part, do what was right. Since 2007, that percentage has never risen above 30%. Even at a local level, studies by the National Citizen Survey have shown that the longer a person lives in a community, the less they trust their local government— including those who are more civically involved!
The explanation may be that the phrase “to know it is to hate it” rings true. The longer one spends in a community, the higher the chance they will experience an issue and feel like that community has failed them. But issues will always arise in any community; why is it that we are not able to patch those wounds between government and citizens? The reason is because most often there is no connection between representatives and constituents.
Yet, we live in a time where we have the technology and ability to connect more easily than ever before. If we want to change the perception of politics, we need to change the way it works. We need better standards and ways to hold representatives accountable. We have the technology and we should be using it to be as transparent as possible.
The government has continually fallen far behind in innovation and communication. During my time reporting, I covered many election cycles and I fully understand the weight of unbiased information sharing. As someone who owns a video production company, I recognize the importance of using various mediums to connect with people. As a citizen, I am an active voter and frequently contact my representatives. I know how frustrating it can be when you do not feel heard by the person whose very job it is to listen to you.
It shocks me that even when asking the very simple question, “What percentage of your constituents were for or against this action?” the answer is that the information is not available. It is so easy to record the concerns and opinions that constituents relay to a representative’s office. This information should be shared directly from politicians’ offices through the many platforms we have available to connect with voters. Districts deserve to know for each decision made what their entire community felt and the reasoning behind their representative’s choice.
With all of my personal experiences, combined with the frustrations I have heard from many constituents, we have decided in this campaign to do things differently. We want to establish trust and connection through open communication. I want to be held accountable. Up through the election and as a representative, we will be releasing weekly blogs that cover important issues and recent legislation affecting the district. We are in the process of creating informational videos on key topics that include conversations with constituents to help connect with the community through visual media. We want this campaign, and my future position, to be one that embodies strong and innovative communication. As a representative, I want you to have confidence in what happens in Jeff City because you hear it from me.