Advocate. Advocating. Advocacy. These are words that most people correlate to some sort of political movement. The words, like many others, speak to an audience in an emotive way. They naturally engender a feeling of persuasion. The words tend to generate a sense of complexity, or individual disposition, that sometimes leaves us with an impression that you have to “bleed” for a cause to be relevant, or you have to take risk and be aggressive in your approach to support what you believe. People I’ve talked to feel that the terms “advocate” and “lobby” are interchangeable and many more, unfortunately, feel as though their energy and support for a topic will go unheard, or that they can’t advocate for their beliefs because they simply don’t feel equipped to effectively argue their need.
The fact is, all of us are advocates at some point in our lives, and most of us advocate on a daily basis. Whether it’s a father pleading with his family physician to prescribe medication for his sick son, or that son later in the evening pleading with his father to let him go out and play rather than rest, both are demonstrating their own personal form of advocacy. Most of us take those minor doses of advocacy in stride, and frankly, don’t even categorize them as such because we simply see them as part of our daily routine. I once found myself arguing with my brother over what type of brake pads to use on my vehicle, he said the cheapest, and I wanted to ones with the warranty. Both would work, but one provided me with a better long-term operation and maintenance cost for my vehicle, so I “advocated” for my option. Which brings me to the point, which I’m sure you’ve been waiting for; all of us are equipped to advocate for those central things in our lives that are essential, or “givens”, for a thriving economy and an improved quality of life, we just may not know that we are.
One of those central “givens” in our lives is infrastructure. Infrastructure is what allows us to get to work every day, it’s what allows grocery stores to provide all your food needs in one location, it’s what brings far away recreational destinations within reach, and importantly, it’s what allows for emergency services to keep us safe in our time of need. Most of us take the infrastructure we use for granted, or worse, find ourselves complaining about sitting in traffic and spending hours behind the wheel of a car (or in a seat on transit), rather than playing catch in the yard with our kids or sharing a family dinner.
Like most things in this world infrastructure isn’t free and its construction and ongoing maintenance comes at a cost. The buying power of infrastructure dollars is going down as inflation rises; yet the needs for maintaining and upgrading our infrastructure continue to increase. These are simple facts that are plaguing most public agencies and departments of transportation across the country, and the truth is, many of them can’t advocate for those needs on their own. Even when they do a great job of demonstrating the need for improvements or projects, they face the reality of having to compete against other worthy projects – transportation and otherwise - in a time of dwindling public funding. They need our help.
How can we help? Today, we can help in ways that we never imagined even 10 years ago. There are many communication tools available through the web that allows our voices to be heard, and almost every public agency offers some sort of public comment opportunity. These are just a few avenues (yes, I like transportation puns), on which to advocate. Elected offices welcome opportunities to hear from their constituents, especially those who support a need that serves the community. In today’s open platform of instant and far reaching communication, all of us possess the ability to gain access and be heard in a way never before imagined.
In a world of rising costs, increased congestion, dwindling time and declining revenues, we want our priorities to sit at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds. Few issues impact our daily lives like transportation infrastructure, and we are losing the battle of maintaining what we already have, let alone building new.
Now more than ever, YOU can make a difference. Ignore the fear of not being heard. Engage in your community. Advocate for your needs as you would for your child at the doctor. Help prioritize infrastructure at every level. Our kids’ future depends on it.
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