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Learning the lingo

There’s a lot involved in keeping up with local politics. Learning the ropes takes effort and time, for there are many questions to answer: Who holds what position? Who creates local laws and how are they adopted? Who enforces those laws? What is an executive session? What is a quorum? How does one do a municipal search? Where does one go to file specific documents? What’s it like to attend a town or a village meeting? How does one follow along — and where, oh where, is the legend to all of those darn acronyms bandied about the board table?We’re not going to answer all of those questions right now, but suffice it to say that taking an active role as a citizen in one’s hometown requires some work. For starters, there must be genuine interest. One must earnestly want to learn what’s going on in their town or village before diving in and making a concerted effort to attend frequent meetings (and, yes, there are many).Once determined, try to become acquainted with your town supervisor or mayor, your councilmen and women. Read through the agendas at the meetings you attend; become aware of what the board will be discussing and voting on; learn who supports what issues and raise your concerns, if any, during the public comment sessions. Attend budget meetings when the time arises and see where your tax dollars are going. Don’t agree with the budgeting process? Speak out during the public hearings — that’s exactly what they’re intended for — and believe it or not your voice could actually impact the budgeting process. While all of this may, hopefully, inspire some who have the interest, and, yes, the time to get involved, there is one more hurdle to jump. The lingo.Government is a language onto itself. The more you’re around it, the more sense it makes, but it can take time to decipher exactly what our leaders are saying. Sometimes, it may take the generosity of another who may be willing to share their knowledge with a novice. Other times it takes detailed research. That’s why this week The Millerton News published a user-friendly guide to help its readers along. On the front page of this week’s edition is “The ABC’s of local government,” a comprehensive directory of the various levels of local government, municipal leaders, definitions, acronyms, abbreviations, terms and phrases. It also includes terms used by our local school districts.The goal is simply to improve everyone’s familiarity with the vernacular used by our local leaders — words and phrases that eventually wind up scrawled across our pages each and every week. We hope readers find it useful. Those who intend to follow their hometown’s political process throughout the year may even want to keep the article close at hand, as a guide, for quick definitions when needed.In the meanwhile, this paper will continue to do its best to keep its readers well informed of their hometowns’ political process while reinforcing exactly how that process works, and more to the point, exactly what it is that everyone is talking about, from A to Z.

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