As the saying goes, all politics is local, but there are plenty of opportunities for local politicians to work on the national stage. Legislation handed down in Washington is ultimately administered by state and local governments, and now more than ever these local bodies are banding together to make their voices heard before bills are passed.
Today there is an organizing body for almost every facet of government. A few examples include the National Association of Black County Officials, the National Conference of Black State Legislators, and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, just to name a few. Several of these groups have become highly visible on the national stage, reaching out both formally and informally to the Obama administration and agencies working on everything from the national broadband plan to the stimulus bill passed last year.
With the large sums of money the federal government has committed to sparking America’s economic resurgence, these groups can exert at least a small bit of influence to what funding comes to their communities and ultimately supports their constituents–something members of Congress mastered years ago.
Leaders of these niche governing groups are also taking their arguments to the public; Commissioner Robert Steele, President of the National Association of Black County Officials, recently penned an op-ed for Black Web 2.o responding to a piece on net neutrality from Huffington Post. This kind of outreach is yet another way that local ideas can reach a national stage and gain more support in the process.
Ultimately the people that best understand that citizens needs are those officials that work most closely with them, and local leaders have the opportunity to do that on a regular basis. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who passed away in early February, was known as a master of pork barrel spending. Over the years towns in his district became meccas for defense contractors who benefited from the lucrative funding opportunities Murtha added to national legislation. While local leaders obviously don’t have access to add their pet projects to bills, they are starting to see that by becoming a visible and noisy part of the political process, they can build closer relationships with people that do.