The process of our governments, whether it be at the federal or local level, is a mystery to many. I included myself in that group until very recently when I had the opportunity to spend the day in Annapolis shadowing Julie Lawson, of the Public Affairs team at the Anacostia Watershed Society and also the lead organizer for Trash Free Maryland.
We lucked out with a gorgeous, sunny day in Annapolis which was the perfect backdrop to my first glimpse of the grand, Georgian architecture placed purposefully around the two circles that defined the area. Historic buildings were abound and it all felt appropriately stately and important.
We started out in the House of Delegates visiting delegates with the purpose of building support for the statewide bag fee and, hopefully, gaining a few cosponsors along the way. We later went over to the Senate to do the same. Each office we entered had many of the same features and I was completely turned around by the time we reached our fifth, but one thing was consistent throughout our meetings -- the cordial staff. They all took a second away from their busy mornings to inform us of their bosses’ whereabouts. If they could help us efficiently they did. If not, they let us know when to return. I’m not sure if it was just early enough in the morning that folks were still pleasant or if they maintain that demeanor all day, but kudos to all.
As I was whisked along the finely appointed halls there were a few things that surprised me:
- The age range of the delegates/senators. Many were much younger than I expected (early 30s?) and others had been around much longer than I thought would be possible.
- How much running around occurred. In this day and age ruled by electronic communication there is something to be said for waiting an extra 15 minutes to get a face-to-face. It seemed to be the norm, though, and I appreciate that that is still the best means to getting things accomplished.
- The ambiguity of speech by all parties. I think I learned the true meaning of political correctness. It involves being able to talk around a subject so completely that one either forgets what was originally being said or are so assuaged by whatever was stated that it all begins to become abstract and lose meaning. It was a tough job listening intently and trying to get to the root of a delegate’s refusal to cosponsor when it sounded like he/she was just politely saying maybe.
Would I recommend a day in Annapolis? Absolutely. I felt like I was part of the action in getting things done and was learning at every turn. I can’t imagine doing it everyday but, as a break from the routine or to give your support to a bill whose cause you support, it’s a fantastic way to see the inner workings of the political system. And it can’t be beat in terms of feeling like a citizen. Onward, to Annapolis!
-By Ann DeSanctis, Anacostia Watershed Society