• Advocacy

A new technology lets you get involved where it matters most

As the world becomes increasingly connected through the wonders of technology, it's often easier to feel closer to a stranger 3,000 miles away than one's own next door neighbor. The upsides of the communication revolution have been vast – we’re now part of a global community! But, despite all its innovations, new technology has yet to displace that which confronts us every time we step out the front door: our neighborhood.

That's why it's shocking to discover that of my millennial compatriots – while active in the national sphere – only 30% participate in local politics. And yet, most of the tangible changes to the status quo happen right here in our own neighborhood. Local politics influence our commute, our homes, our taxes, and our community. Cities play a profound role in shaping local economies – regulating everything from freelance tax codes, to Uber policy, to small business practices. Local is the nexus where many of the biggest political battles are fought.

But, perhaps the bureaucratic, paper-heavy, practices of local government systems haven't yet evolved to appeal to our high-speed tastes. Enter Councilmatic, the latest in civic tech tools with a focus on engaging the information-hungry in conversation about local legislation.

Now active in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, Councilmatic allows users to search for current and proposed legislation and follow the progress of a bill through City Hall. Users may search for legislation by topic, discover which legislation their district Council Member supports, or search by committee. Furthermore, Councilmatic provides an events schedule for upcoming community meetings.

For example, I discovered my City Council Member, Helen Rosenthal, is supporting a bill that would require the city's 311 system to notify its callers by text or email as to the status of their complaint. This is genius! I also discovered that Helen Rosenthal supports many initiatives aimed at creating an environment where minority and female-owned small businesses can thrive.

From big issues that can have major impact on the economic landscape of the city to minor conveniences, local government often has far more direct impact on my day-to-day life than the circus presently parading at the national level. This is part of the reason why we chose to introduce the Freelance Isn't Free bill in the City of New York. The truth is, progress can happen much faster at the local level and then grow from there.

Councilmatic invites you to learn about laws that will potentially change your daily life as well as to get to know the politicians behind them. Through partnerships with City Council members, Councilmatic ensures that when you comment on any given legislation, a representative will hear what you have to say. The more you know, the more opportunity you have to get involved.

We freelancers are notorious for pursuing the lifestyle that lets us have the most impact on the world by using the best of our own skills and talents. Involvement in local government is an easy way to help make real, tangible change happen. Let's leave our communities a little bit better off than they were before we arrived. Check out the Freelance Isn't Free legislation on Councilmatic, share your thoughts, and make your voice heard.

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about sustainability, community, poetry and pop culture. Find her @Pennyscientist or on Freelancers Union.

Laura Murphy A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about community, poetry and pop culture.

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