A City Council meeting
A City Council meeting in progress. Courtesy of the city

As a parent in the San Diego Unified School District and an advocate for gun violence prevention through Moms Demand Action, I understand the importance of having a voice when decisions are being made at a local level.

I’ve participated in my fair share of School Board meetings, City Council meetings and County Board of Supervisors meetings.  Like all parents, I care deeply about the safety and welfare of our children.

But I often have had to wait one, two, even three hours to speak on topics that impact the safety of students and families. And I have seen constituents leave meetings before having an opportunity to speak because they had work, school or family obligations. 

Someone may be profoundly affected by an issue and want to share their thoughts, but their baby needs dinner, or their grandchild needs help with homework, or their job doesn’t allow for a three-hour break in the middle of the day. 

So if we want to ensure that all voices are heard, the Boost Democracy initiative, which proposes a call or text notification when it is time to speak, is a simple yet effective way to accomplish this.  

We have seen over the past year how the shift to virtual meetings has already increased accessibility, allowing us to hear the voices of those who are unable to be physically present at a meeting.  Boost Democracy will work to increase this accessibility. 

Having to wait on hold for an indeterminate amount of time creates unnecessary barriers to civic participation and perpetuates already existing inequities.  Something as simple as text message notification will create a more equitable environment for community engagement in local decision-making, and I hope that other communities will follow San Diego’s lead.

As a parent in the San Diego Unified School District, I am so pleased that our district will be the first to pilot this innovative initiative. As a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, I am honored to join with other community members in supporting Boost Democracy so that all San Diegans have an opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Kasey Zahner is the local lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.