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Guest Writer - Mtokufa Ngwenya | Chief of Staff for At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr

Mtokufa Ngwenya

Chief of Staff for At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr

Twitter: @mtokufa

Making Your Voice Heard

The Importance of Civic Engagement

As Chief of Staff for At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr., I consistently see the impact of local politics on everyday issues like education, housing, and workforce development. The District of Columbia is a unique and diverse city, with our residents living in close proximity to policymakers and elected officials, residents have opportunities to influence the decisions that impact their day-to-day life. If you want to be civically involved, advocate on issues that impact your community and support campaigns that put elected officials who represent your interests into office. Local civic engagement is critical to understanding how your city works and making your voice heard by legislators.

The Council of the District of Columbia (DC Council) is a 13-member assembly that handles issues that would be managed by city, county, and state legislators in other jurisdictions. The Council is the District’s legislature, responsible for crafting laws that benefit those who live and work in our city.

To be an effective advocate, you must state the problem with supporting data, propose a solution, and end with an ask for the Councilmembers. If the matter is particularly technical it is best to provide brief written background information so that you can clearly articulate your issue to Councilmembers and staff. Most policymakers want to help the residents of the District through financial resources, effective oversight, and legislation. Without your voice, it can be difficult to create policies that reflect your needs. By engaging with members of the Council and residents of the District on current legislation, you have positioned yourself to shape the way the city moves forward.

Participating in local campaigns is another way to be involved civically. Recently, the DC Council, passed the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which will ensure that elected officials do not need to come from wealth to be part of the political process and to represent this city. The Fair Elections Act aims to eliminate the pay-to-play politics that has plagued this city for years by enhancing the impact of small donors in elections. Residents will benefit from seeing fairer and cleaner politics and elections in the District of Columbia.

Most importantly, remember, there is an upcoming election on November 6th, so ensure you are registered to vote! There are important local elections on the ballot for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the State Board of Education, the DC Council, and the Mayor. Use these next seven days to truly learn more about the candidates, what they will add to DC, and what their visions are to move the city forward. You can find information about the candidates here. Read up on the candidates, ask the necessary questions, go vote, and get your friends and neighbors to join you! ​