Civic engagement is one of the cornerstones of our society and is essential to our representative form of government. Decisions best reflect the values of the community when there is a high degree of public participation. In this month’s column, I will discuss some of the ways you can get involved in decision making at the County level.

Public input is critical to our decision making as elected officials. We set policies and adopt budgets that we feel are best aligned with the will of the people we represent. Local governments are the ones closest to the people and have the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives. In order to facilitate public engagement in the policy making process, we hold public hearings on every ordinance that the County Council adopts. Ordinances are the vehicle used to adopt changes to the County Code (local laws). 

With a few exceptions, public hearings are held on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Traditionally, these hearings are held in the Jackson Board Room at the County Campus in Everett. But due to COVID-19, we have been holding our hearings electronically through Zoom video conferencing. Any member of the public can log in and take 3 minutes per hearing to share their thoughts and support or oppose an action before Council makes a decision on it. A calendar of the upcoming public hearings can be found at https://snohomishcountywa.gov/2134/Council-Hearings-Calendar.

If you cannot attend the meeting and would still like to provide input, you can always email your testimony to contact.council@snoco.org. Emails send to this address are forwarded to all five County Councilmembers and are included in the official record if they are in response to a specific ordinance under consideration. You can also use the Contact Council email address if you have general questions or specific concerns that you would like addressed by Snohomish County government. 

Another way to get involved and make your voice heard is by serving on a board or commission. Snohomish County has over 40 boards and commissions with citizen representatives. These boards vary on topics including tourism promotion, land use issues, parks, and many more. Some of these boards are advisory in nature and provide input and recommendations to the County Council and Executive. Others actually award funding to various projects throughout the County. There are different levels of involvement associated with the various boards and commissions. For more information about how to get involved with one of our boards or commissions, visit https://snohomishcountywa.gov/128/Boards-Commissions.

One of the best parts of serving on the County Council is hearing from residents and helping to identify solutions to issues that arise in our communities. We are best able to address issues and help you when we hear from you. I encourage everyone to take some time to see how they can get involved whether it is providing testimony in a public hearing or serving on a board or commission. Our government works better when citizens are involved and your voices are heard. 

 Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-388-3494.

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