What we’re talking about when we’re talking local policy change

Residents meet in Grafton to talk local policy

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

This year, the team with The Hub’s policy program has been in the process of rolling out the Next Generation Communities Project – an initiative that helps to strengthen communities and their economies through local changes that will motivate young people to come to and stay in West Virginia.

As this project ramps up, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to community teams across the state about making local policy change. Many people are eager to get involved, but aren’t quite sure what I mean when I say, “local policy change.” 

So, what are we actually talking about? 

In order to answer that question, there are two underlying questions that must be addressed:

What does “local policy” actually mean? 

What does “change” look like? 

I suspect that when most people think about the meaning of local policy, they think about a city council or county commission passing an ordinance – a new law. But, it can be many other things as well.  

A policy change could be moving some money around in a town’s budget to pay for something that wasn’t previously funded. Or, it could be a change in practice by a government agency or even a corporation that doesn’t require passing or amending a law at all. In short, sometimes a local policy change is a law change, but sometimes it’s just a change in practice. 

No matter what type of policy, when we talk about “change,” what we’re really talking about is a decision that needs to be made by someone who is in a position of local authority. This could be a mayor, city council, municipal staff member, or a CEO. Asking yourself or someone else, “Who calls the shots on this?” can be a good way to figure out who will be in charge of making the change.

An example of this might be a city council choosing to change how seating is arranged inside of their council chambers. 

Scott Lazenby recently published an article outlining the many ways that seating arrangements inside city council chambers can contribute to or undermine collaborative conversations between elected officials and community members.

Even though it’s unlikely that the seating arrangement of a council chamber is set out in law, changes made to seating arrangements would definitely fall under the category of local policy change for two reasons: 

  • A decision must be made by either the mayor or the city council – individuals who hold local authority; and
  • The decision impacts local community members and elected officials. 

 

This means that any community members who wish for the seating arrangement to be changed, would have to ask their elected officials to make that change on their behalf. This works especially well if a number of community members are asking for the same thing.

What are some local policy changes that you’d like to see in your community?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments, or reach out to me – Taylor Bennett – at t.bennett@wvhub.org if you would like to chat more.

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