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Opinion

‘Day on the Hill’ garners political perspective

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February 25, 2015

On Feb. 2, UW-River Falls student and fellow Environmental Corps of Sustainability member Greg Brown and I made a trip to the Minnesota State Capitol for the Clean Energy & Jobs “Day on the Hill” lobby event.

Hundreds of Minnesotans met with their respected district lawmakers to pressure them into supporting a vote which would raise the Renewable Energy Standard to 40 percent by 2030.

My state representative in the town of Hastings, Minnesota, is Republican Denny McNamara, a small business owner who has been holding office since 2002. Rep. McNamara is on a first name basis with my father and grandmother, and recently I have been fostering my own working relationship with him.

Both Rep. McNamara and my district Senator Katie Sieben, a Democrat, were both out of office for the day. After meeting with their legislative aids, I quickly received emails back from both elected officials. They thanked me for taking time to meet with them and apologized for being out of office. They then shared their views on renewable energy and where renewables are headed in the state of Minnesota.

A little over one week later, on Thursday Feb. 12, more than 100 students from five different schools within the University of Minnesota System met with legislators in support of a tuition freeze.

“Student voices aren’t often heard at the capitol,” said Minnesota student Kristen Anderson. “I advocate for the tuition freeze for all the other students who are in class or at work. A tuition freeze would be long-term investment in the workforce and short-term financial help.”

In a participatory democracy, these types of events create change in our society. If there’s a cause that means a lot to you, whether it is education reform, subsidies for farmers, environmental action, or legalization of marijuana; you have a voice, and there are elected officials who want to hear it.

You don’t need experience in politics, belong to the Democrat or Republican party, or earn a college degree to take a position and be a part in the political process. When election time rolls around, I often hear my peers talk about why they do or do not vote. In my experience, it’s been the latter. Many feel they aren’t informed enough to make a proper decision, others have stated: “All politicians are corrupt, so what’s the point?”

People on college campuses do not vote because they don’t care about who is in power. They just want to live in their own little sphere of life. Some people would continue on as if government decisions won’t effect them.

It’s important to take the time to learn who your representatives are. Complaining about corrupt politicians only adds to the problem of corrupt and unfit individuals who get elected.

The truth is that we are very fortunate to not only have the right to vote in the U.S., but also having elected officials who are readily available and willing to sit down and discuss issues with any constituent, like you and I.

The most important part of a democracy is a well-informed electorate. A community of people who have values and ideas they want represented in government. Find a cause or movement you can get behind, pick up a phone, write a letter, and take advantage the power to enact change in your community.

Greg Mathews is a senior history major with a political science minor at UW-River Falls. He is also an environmental activist, adventurer and outdoor enthusiast.