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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pia Hansen: Your city needs you this summer

Pia Hansen The Spokesman-Review

So it’s summer and there’s nothing to do, you say.

You’re bored, right? Not to mention that the people who run our fair city have no concept of reality, correct? And it’s impossible to get a message through to City Hall, right?

Well, wrong.

The thing is that you may have to actually show up and do some of the work. In other words: Your city needs you to volunteer.

Don’t worry. This is not the kind of work where you get dirty or have to stay out in the sun all day, pulling weeds or painting some building or playground equipment. These are air-conditioned gigs – and considering the current heat wave, central AC is a great fringe benefit.

Every once in a while, Spokane City Hall sends out a document titled “Volunteer Board Vacancy Announcements” listing openings on various, you guessed it, boards and commissions.

This is not exactly the kind of press release that makes your heart race.

Personally, I’d never given these announcements much thought until I had a casual conversation with City Council member Nancy McLaughlin at a community event earlier this year.

At that time there were openings on all sorts of boards and commissions, and McLaughlin shared with me that it’s difficult to get people to apply.

Somehow that surprised me.

I guess I’m in firm denial about how disenfranchised people truly are.

And wouldn’t you know it: The story is the same in Coeur d’Alene.

“Sometimes it’s really hard to find volunteers,” said Victoria Bruno, administrative assistant to the mayor. “With as busy a city as we are, you’d think it would be easier.”

Spokane needs volunteers for no less than nine separate boards, from the Human Rights Commission, to the Audit Committee, to the Sister Cities Association. And the Park Board.

On Monday, five vacant positions were filled on the Human Rights Commission, but there are still five left.

The Sister Cities Association has three vacancies, and if you are a high-caliber number cruncher, the Audit Committee has just the spot for you.

The Chase Youth Commission needs three adult volunteers, with an application deadline of July 27.

It’s simple: Fill out an application and send it in. The mayor’s office reviews all applications, and nominees are then presented to the City Council for approval. Terms and conditions vary, but it’s overall a pretty painless process.

Who needs another meeting, you ask?

Heaven knows I’ve covered and attended enough meetings to understand your trepidation, but it’s not meetings that are keeping people from volunteering.

It’s comfort.

For many it’s difficult to imagine a more comfortable position than standing on the sidelines – safe from commitment and sheltered from responsibility – while you hurl mud at those who actually show up and try to make the right decision.

Why don’t you go ahead and give it a shot? It’s way cheaper than actually running for office.

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