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By The Time You Read This, startingpoint It’s Too Late... Want to make a political difference? Become part of the process.

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New budgets. Proposed buildings. Public hearings. Every major community issue eventually finds its way into print — usually just in time to do nothing about it. Allow us to offer the following, easy four-step system to stay informed, enraged and locally engaged. (Warning: frequent use may strengthen belief in the political process.) Step One: Jump Online.  Think of the Internet as a gateway drug to becoming a political junkie, full of daily blasts to hook you digitally — everything from balanced reporting to blowhard blogs to Facebook pages. (Try not to confuse them as you check the corresponding resource guide.) And remember: while ranting online may be fun, it’s rarely effective; save your best comments for a clear, respectful email to the appropriate decision makers. No time? Make a phone call. A good staffer can document your position in under a minute.

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Step Two: Join a list. Every official government body has an official website stocked with official calendars. That doesn’t mean you’ll officially remember to check it. The solution? “Call the clerk in your town or county and ask to be put on their email list,” says Dorothy Toolan, Public Information Officer for Dare County. “And if there’s a particular board or committee you’re interested in following — say the Shoreline Commission — you can contact their clerk and ask to be notified, as well.”

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Step Three: Go to a meeting. “No, not that!” Yes, that. They may be long, boring and poorly timed — with enough “ayes” and “nays” to give anyone motion sickness — but speaking directly to the powers-that-be is still the best way to be heard. And to listen. Each time, you gain a sense of how the process works, as well as each official’s individual take on a variety of topics. (Instead of screaming over hot button votes twice a year.) You may even find you agree on occasion. And if not, it’s still the best way to monitor scary trends before they become policy.

ONLINE RESOURCE GUIDE: COUNTIES: www.darenc.org www.co.currituck.nc.us TOWNS: www.townofduck.org www.southernshores-nc.gov www.townofkittyhawk.org www.kdhnc.com www.townofnagshead.net www.townofmanteo.com NEWS: www.outerbanksvoice.com www.islandfreepress.org www.obsentinel.com www.outerbanksfreepress.com

VOTER INFORMATION: www.lwvdarenc.org POLITICAL NEWS & OPINION: www.eyeondare.blogspot.com www.obxcommonground.org www.truthordarenc.com www.outerbanksseniors.com FACEBOOK PAGES: OBX Locals Outer Banks Local Group Dare County Democratic Party Dare County Republicans OBX Tea Party Patriots

POLITICAL PARTIES: www.obxteaparty.com www.daredemocrats.com www.dareGOP.com

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Step Four: Vote. In the words of George Jean Nathan: “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.” And that’s exactly what they’re counting on. Show “The Man” who’s boss by casting your ballot each election season, from the Commander in Chief to state senators to town hall. Every seat is a potential ally or enemy for some future issue. So research the range of challengers and incumbents — Dare County’s League of Women voters prepares a voter guide each season: www.lwvdarenc.org — and make sure you register at least 25 days before November 8. Or register and vote the same day via “One-Stop Absentee” from October 20 to November 4. And before you say, “I’m too busy”, remember: a half-hour waiting for a booth this fall might save you years fighting some eyesore or power grab down the road.

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.

2010’s “Hands Across the Sand” event drew 200 local protesters without printing one word. PHOTO: Julie Dreelin

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