OPINION: For the next 100 days southlandtimes.co.nz will follow newly elected Invercargill City Councillor Rebecca Amundsen.
She's not an unfamiliar face to people who live in Glengarry, or those who voted for her.
She's a mother, a landlord, a project leader and now a city councillor.
But this isn't just our project, it's yours too.
Get involved by posting comments, asking questions and answering polls each week as we follow Rebecca's first days in office.
Each week Rebecca will also write about her council musings.
Recently I went down to the hospital and saw a group of about eight people standing quietly on the corner with placards protesting against abortion.
Although I don't support their position I do have to say I admire their conviction and their guts - to stand up publicly for what they believe in.
This is not always easy.
These people expose themselves to ridicule by doing what they do but they must feel strongly enough about this issue that they are willing to put themselves out there like that.
These days there are other ways to stand up for what you believe in.
I have noticed a lot of people using various Facebook forums such as the Southland Times page to voice their opinions.
This is great and I read the comments with interest particularly things that relate to the council.
As times are changing I believe we need to look at how the council can use Facebook and other social media to get feedback from the public.
One thing I have noticed is that Facebook seems to engage people who might not otherwise engage in with council and if council wants to hear from a cross section of the community then Facebook might be a good tool for doing this.
The usual way to get your message to the council table is through submissions on policies or annual plans.
At the moment submissions are open on the Local Alcohol Policy.
Later this week the submission period for the Local Approved Products Policy (LAPP - Legal Substances) will open - 15 March.
And annual plan submissions open at the end of March.
I would like to say that making a submission is not difficult or potentially exposing like a street protest but that would not be 100% correct.
The written submission itself is not too bad - if you know how to do it but there are a lot of people who have never done this kind of thing before.
At my Have a Seat Have a Say session last week I spoke to two people who feel strongly about the Local Approved Products Policy (Legal Substances). But neither had submitted before.
Making a submission also provides you with the opportunity to speak to your submission. And this I know is scary.
But it does give your message more clout and I suggest as much as you might not want to, you should do it!
When you speak to your submission the councillors get the opportunity to ask questions and to see and hear your passion and belief.
One lady has also raised the question of how we get the message out so people know this is their time to make their voice heard on this.
That is a very good question. Often the advertisement in the paper announcing the submission period is buried in the classifieds in small print.
The newspaper may cover it if something controversial happens but they don't always promote the fact that the community can have a say about it and how they can do that, they focus on the element of controversy.
In the case of the Local Approved Products Policy there has been some excellent coverage not only locally but also nationally as other communities face the same issues.
The lady I spoke with is well connected with a lot of other people who feel strongly about this issue so she is having meetings about it and encouraging people to submit.
But should the council be relying on these passionate people to do this work for them?
I think we need to work harder to inform people about how they can give their message to the council.
So that begs the questions, how can we get the message out?
I would love to hear your suggestions. I am using my own Facebook page Bec Amundsen - your City Councillor to convey council related messages to the public.
I am providing opportunities for people to meet with me such as my Have a Seat, Have a Say session at the museum.
And outside this I am trying to have conversations with as many people as I can. But is it really enough?
I know there are a lot of people passionate about the LAPP - Legal Substances.
Here is my advice, if you haven't made a submission before you can do several things - contact me and I will help you with the process or contact the council and they will provide you with some information.
I expect that once the submissions open for the Legal Substances policy there will be information on this council webpage http://www.icc.govt.nz/PublicDocuments/Consultation.aspx
In your submission be clear, be passionate and highlight the areas of the policy you support and don't support.
This is your chance to have your say, stand up for what you believe and make your voice heard.
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