If you want your voice heard, participate

Thursday, November 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

These are two scenarios happening somewhere near you...

You are driving down the main drag. I don’t know why you are driving down the main drag, but you are. The traffic is not bad, you are not in a hurry so when you come to the red light, no big problem. Until the light turns green and that older vehicle in front of you starts bellowing blue smoke, choking off the air that you breathe.

The vehicle is burning oil. That, my friend, is air pollution. It is a problem. And you sit behind that vehicle bellowing blue smoke and say to yourself, “Someone ought to do something about this.”

You are in need of quick cash. Not wanting to rob a convenience store, you walk into a payday loan center and borrow $500. On fixed income, you pay off the loan little by little over a few months. A relative noticed that the interest paid was four times the amount of the loan. There is a loud outcry; 540-plus percent annualized interest is “loan sharking.” And you say to yourself, “Something has to be done about this.”

Why are these two tales so important to you, readers in rural and small city America? Because you do not think you have a voice.

Yes you do.

This is the beginning of a new season. Not winter or the holiday season. It is the season when our state legislators gather their wits and write the tens-of-hundreds of bills to be introduced under the Gray Dome in the 2010 legislative session.

Not long ago, state Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, visited Columbia College to speak to a class about the importance of one voice in American and Missouri politics. That evening, I handed Ms. Still a proposed bill that would change the state’s vehicle inspection law to require a visual and olfactory inspection of the emission system, looking and smelling for smoke, steam (possible coolant system seal leak) and gas fumes. I did something about “that.”

That same evening, Ms. Still touched on possible upcoming payday loan legislation. A student in that class manages a payday loan office. Ms. Still and the student had a long talk and the representative is now better informed. (Something Columbia’s City Council can learn — get the information before jumping off the cliff.) The student did something about the other “that.”

Here is the deal. Ms. Still, though aware of these problems, did not have the fix or all of the information. Now she does. Our voices have been heard.

On Nov. 17, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer will honor another Columbia College class and talk about the importance of a single voice in politics. He will also speak about some of the issues that our legislators will face in 2010: budget shortfalls, health care reform, payday loan legislation and many more issues.

Schaefer will receive a copy of the proposed vehicle inspection law. I took less than two minutes with Ms. Still and will take less than two minutes with Mr. Schaefer to talk about blue smoke. My voice was and will be heard.

The student/manager took 30 minutes and provided the representative with vital information to help her make a decision. The person who has the ability to change the course of a new law heard her voice.

How about your voice?

Yes, it is an old message on a worn-out recording. However, this time the message is coming before you hear about a new law that just passed and has been signed by the governor. Now is the time to become a participant in a participatory government.

In an October 1960 campaign speech, John F. Kennedy said, “Political action is the highest responsibility of a citizen.”

Now is the time political action. Now is the time to take up your cause, write proposed legislation and say to your legislators, “This is what I want done about this problem.”

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.  Read his blog at  He welcomes your comments at

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