Dave Meslin is an interesting activist from Toronto Canada who describes himself as a “professional rable-rouser”. I love the title as we truly need more folks like Dave questioning how government operates.
A common thought given the few number of people that attend public meetings or even bother to vote is that members of the public are simply lazy and not interested in public affairs.
Meslin disagrees with the view point that people are not interested in government or elections. Meslin’s position is that too many obstacles exist making it difficult for people to actively participate in public affairs. In a great 7 minute Ted Talk, Meslin highlights seven obstacles that make it difficult for citizens to participate in government and elections.
If you can’t check out the full video, in the first two minutes Meslin makes a great point as to how dense and unispiring public meeting notices are typically drafted and buried in the legal section of local newspapers. Not a great way to educate and encourage public participation in government.
Some how government officials have to get more creative with public notices and move beyond legal postings only, which in addition to not being very effective are also pretty expensive.
What do you think about Meslin’s 7 antidote’s to public apathy?
Part of what keeps many local newspapers afloat in this age of diminished print media are legal notices: public meeting announcements, sheriff’s sales, LLC notices by publication, etc. The newspaper industry has so far been rather successful in lobbying governments to keep classified print notices as the exclusive or default means of announcing meetings to the public. Sure, some agencies will subscribe interested citizens to a mailing list, and others are starting to post notices on their websites or via Facebook. But until newspapers no longer have hegemony in providing legal notices, most agencies will not be incentivized or motivated enough to provide more than the minimum legally required notice via classified ads. At the same time, the parties most interested in the outcome of a certain public meeting usually have lawyers or lobbyists to keep them in the loop and may not want too much notice given to the public, so don’t count on insiders to shed any light either.