By Cara Mendelsohn and Jaynie Schultz
With current events and societal changes happening at breakneck speed in our country and around the world, it is easy to retreat and disengage from political discussions and activities. Partisanship has grown stronger, often dividing communities, friends and even families. In the Jewish community, we’ve seen that locally and nationally, and often it feels ironic that one of the phrases we can all agree on is “We are stronger together.”
One way we can all come together, and you can engage with the broader community, is through local government participation. Your city councils and school board trustees are nonpartisan and their decisions can have the biggest impact on day-to-day life. For the city, it’s essential services such as streets, clean water, emergency response, sanitation and homeless services. All of these are just a few of the examples of where city government is key to improving the quality of life for residents.
There are different ways to engage in city government, and now is the most important time to get involved. Why? Because in addition to the annual budget, which is approximately $4 billion in the city of Dallas, and largely made up of property and sales taxes, hundreds of millions are flowing into the city from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act. How these dollars are spent sets a course for the city for the next 20 years. We’re not likely to ever see this transfer of federal tax dollars to local government again in our lifetimes. Will the dollars be invested to provide lasting improvements, or will they be spent as a one-time injection to transform one or more areas of the city, or will the dollars be squandered on ineffective programs? You can have a voice in this decision.
Over the past few years, Dallas city councilmembers have beat the drum for stronger community engagement and feedback. We want to hear from you about your tax rate, library services, parks, public safety and more. With COVID-19, traditional community meetings have not been possible, but virtual meetings have provided a new way for many to engage. From surveys and virtual town halls, to enews, speaking at city council meetings, and board and commission appointments, you can get informed and involved to the degree that interests you.
To sign up for the district enews in your area, or to find out more about serving on a board or commission, email your councilmember. The first task following July’s council recess will be approving a city budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22, and your input is welcome and appreciated. We will be holding in-person budget town hall meetings for all of North Dallas on Aug. 19 and we would love to see you there. Other virtual and in-person meetings are planned as well. Let’s work together to keep improving Dallas for our families and our future.
Cara Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaynie Schultz, email@example.com