Recently I started watching the television show “Parks and Rec” on Netflix. I had watched a few episodes of the show on occasion, celebrate Galentine's day every year and shared a bunch of “Parks and Rec” memes, but I had never really sat down and watched the show.
First off, it is a really good show. It is the perfect balance of heartfelt and hilarious. I highly recommend seasons one through six of the show (But maybe not season seven because it is a little weird).
Like the name implies, “Parks and Rec” is a show about a Parks and Recreation Department and as the show goes on, it highlights other aspects of local government. It is based in Pawnee, Indiana, a town that in a lot of ways is like Sedalia (Except we do not have an ongoing raccoon infestation).
Watching “Parks and Rec” really got me thinking about the importance of local government. I try to be involved: I have served on city boards, I make my opinions known to our city leaders, I have an ongoing fake feud with Parks and Rec and most importantly I vote in every single election. But, I feel like national politics always dominates my conversations and I know I am not alone.
Maybe we tend to gravitate to national politics because it is inherently more exciting. For example, our mayor, John Kehde, may not be a billionaire from decades of real estate development but, Kehde’s is a barbecue empire and John has been there since around 1970. And John may not be married to a model, but Chelsea is the snazziest dresser in Sedalia history.
Our Parks and Recreation Director, Amy Epple, may have never ridden a horse to work like the former Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, but she is still a pretty great person and she and her team work really hard at giving Sedalians the best activities and parks possible. Our City Council may not be ridden with juicy scandal and dramatic deadlock like the U.S. Congress but we have people like Megan Page who is always helping out citizens on Facebook with questions about the city.
Exciting or not: local government does matter. Our local government affects our lives every single day. They impact everything from our roads to our trash and so much more. It seems like people are very invested in complaining about decisions made by the various forms of local government without ever participating.
I have attended a few city council meetings over the years and I have always been disappointed by the lack of other citizens there. I looked at the election turnouts for a presidential race vs. a local election. Sixty-nine percent of Pettis County residents voted in the 2016 election and around 12% of us voted in April. There wasn’t a lot on the April ballot, but that is when we voted on making a Central 911 Dispatch.
This is a great time to start participating in local government. There are several issues that soon Sedalia will be tackling that will affect our community for decades to come. The Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council have been working on deciding on the rules for medical marijuana dispensaries. Also, in August we will be voting on a new tax to fund a community center (and indoor pool).
I know that no matter the result, both of these issues will result in a lot of complaining. So, here’s my suggestion: instead of complaining on Facebook, get involved with your local government. There are so many easy ways to do this: grow a relationship with your representatives, attend a City Council meeting, ask to be considered for a board or committee, or participate in a neighborhood cleanup.
The overarching theme of “Parks and Rec” was Leslie Knope’s unfailing love and dedication for her community. No matter what happened to her, she was committed to making Pawnee a better place for everyone, and she worked really hard to achieve that. Sedalia is lucky that we already have several “Knopes” in the community, but the town could always use more.