Civic Engagement & Accountability




Abe Flores blogs on why civic engagement is essential (even if it's not always fun).







Civic engagement is not always easy. Providing public comment at the LAUSD Board during budget season is a long and arduous task. You have to get there at least five hours before they start letting people in and, once in, jostle for the limited Speaker Cards.

This is the only way a citizen can speak before the entire board and Superintendent, and it's tough.  However, it is incredibly important that they hear from us.LAUSD arts education advocacy

I was there last week, waiting hours in line with a couple of arts advocate parents who were willing and able to provide public comment.  As we waited, we watched union protestors demand no more cuts, drummers accompany syncopated chants of "save our schools," and hundreds of parents holding signs asking for education to be saved.

The boisterous scene outside and the much more subdued public speakers inside the board meeting had a similar goal: convince the board to stop the proposed cuts. 

The tone of the messages varied greatly, from the abrasive protestors that referred to the Superintendent as a puppet, to the positive speaker that spoke of the power of education and asked how they could help. 

As I’ve sat through board meetings, met with board members and listened to the Superintendent, two things have become clear: they have a hell of a job, and none of them want the district to be in this situation.  Who would not prefer to be adding programs rather than cutting them? 

However, they have to make tough decisions this year and they have to consider the public’s opinion.  If the public does not like the decisions their leaders are making, then they must hold them accountable.

Accountability is at the heart of democracy.  We have the duty to speak up when elected officials fail our expectations. In between elections the only way to keep officials accountable is through advocacy and staying informed (the core of Arts for LA's work).  Elected officials represent their constituents and, ideally, base their decisions on the benefit to the public good. 

However, who defines the public good?  This is where politics – the competition and ultimately reconciliation of efforts to define the public good – comes in. 

We must engage in politics in order for our cause to prosper and gain support.  We must engage our elected officials for our cause to reflect their priorities. We must be civically engaged in order to be a partner in democracy. And we must stay informed in order to participate.


Abe Flores is the Advocacy Manager for Arts for LA.  To find out about his current Arts Education workshops, please click here.