California Forward has spent the past four years talking to Californians. Folks told us they want a government they can trust. As an organization that promotes accountability and transparency in our state and local governments, we encourage citizens to get involved and engaged to improve our communities.
When we hear about citizens taking action, we want to share their efforts. The Lakewood Accountability Action Group is a nonprofit “holding elected officials accountable for their action or inaction.”
The organization started in 2006 “out of frustration from residents who were sick and tired of calling and getting no action,” said LAAG spokesman Steve Hanson. “It’s painfully obvious that a lot of these cities, little tiny cities, really don’t have anyone looking over their shoulders.”
Hanson contacted California Forward after our original report, March Elections cancelled in Lakewood and Paramount, dated January 8.
In response to the article explaining the cancelation of March elections, Hanson said “running against an incumbent in the city of Lakewood is almost impossible. Why does no one really run for office?”
He stated, in part, it’s because residents don’t make it a priority to actually “dig around city hall, find out what the real issues are and find out what’s really going on. If they did, they’d understand the need to run.”
With just over 80,000 residents, the city of Lakewood doesn’t get a lot of media attention, said Hanson. That’s why the organization and site were created, to help shed some light on some important local issues.
“No one is really interested in this stuff unless they see it’s something that could impact them directly. Folks aren’t educated enough to really know how system works. The average human being that works, has kids, doesn’t have the time for this. They can stand maybe a half an hour a week of this kind of stuff. People are not interested about listening and doing something about government problems because they figure all they have to do is vote for someone and that someone is supposed to handle the problem,” said Hanson.
But that, some would say, is the problem. One can easily vote for a candidate, but one must also remain engaged in order to fully understand decisions being made for their communities.
With no local election, Hanson has some advice to the citizens. “One of the things that we are going to try to do is get in touch with the newly elected people and contact them and say look what are you going to do? Are you going to take LAAG’s transparency pledge? Are you going to open this stuff up, put it up on the internet so we know what’s going on? And if they don’t, the only thing you can do is call them on it.”
It’s hard to understand the ins and outs of any city government, unless you are involved and actually ask questions.
“We call it as we see it, basically as a taxpayer and citizen,” said Hanson.