Gov 101

"Saving the world requires saving democracy. That requires well-informed citizens. Conservation, environment, poverty, community, education, family, health, economy- these combine to make one quest: liberty and justice for all. Whether one's special emphasis is global warming or child welfare, the cause is the same cause. And justice comes from the same place being human comes from: compassion."  Carl Safina, ecologist


Being an informed citizen and voter who makes this world better means understanding something about government. You may not recall much from your high school civics classes (granted, some things may have changed), so here's where you can learn/refresh on local and Federal government, as well as being a savvy consumer of information. We'll continue adding links and info that we feel will help citizens understand how things work, how we fit in the process, and how WE can work for change.

America's Founding Documents - from the US National Archives and Records Administration. See these three documents, known as the Charters of Freedom:

  • Declaration of IndependenceThe Declaration of Independence expresses the ideals on which the United States was founded and the reasons for separation from Great Britain.
  • The US ConstitutionThe Constitution defines the framework of the Federal Government of the United States.
  • The Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. It defines citizens’ and states’ rights in relation to the Government.

Federal

How It Works: Branches of the US Government & How the US Government is Organized - From USA.gov (official guide to government info and services): Provides basic understanding of branches of government, their roles and responsibilities, and offers links and directories to each as well as to agencies, departments, and commissions.

Important Links:

GovTrack.us: Tracking the United States Congress - What began as a project to make the US Congress more open and accessible has become a great way to track representatives, legislators, and bills. Who voted for and against what? This is the place to check! Follow trending legislation (things you hear about in the news), find legislation that affects you by issue area, and search/track current members of Congress, including metrics, committees, legislation enacted, bills sponsored, and voting records. 

State

How It Works: About Arizona Government - Explains the branches of Arizona government, contains links to official sites for each branch, explains the state's accounting and funding systems. Also includes links to statewide elected officials, state agencies, and to cities and towns.

Important Links:

Arizona State Legislature - The site for the Arizona Senate and Arizona House. If it's bills, committees, legislation, you'll find it here. It's also the home of the Request to Speak (RTS) system (see below).

Request to Speak (RTS) - System where registered users can support or oppose bills moving through Arizona House and Senate. Visit CEBV (Community Engagement Beyond Voting) to get an account!

Request to Speak manual

Intro to Request to Speak from Arizona Education Association

LD25 Events that feature RTS

County

How It Works:  Our Structure (Maricopa County) - Scroll down to learn about Board of Supervisors (LD25 is in District 2), Elected Officers, organizational chart, and maps. Has links to departments and services.

Important Links:   Can be found within "Our Structure" above.

City

How It Works:  City of Mesa Mayor and Council - Explains Mesa's charter form of government. |  Government - Links to organizational chart, department listing, council strategic plan, boards and committees (leadership growth/advocacy opportunity), city code, etc.

Important Links:   City of Mesa website - Portal for all services and activities in Mesa.


Understanding Media Bias, Fact-Checking, and Being Informed

In this age of innumerable media outlets and the blatant and sometimes hidden attacks on truth by many, it's more important than ever to carefully select where your information and analysis will come from, how to judge whether or not your source relies on and represents the truth, and that the information that they share and purport as facts can be proven. 

Media Bias Chart

Ad Fontes Media publishes a static and interactive Media Bias Chart ®. It charts where news outlets lie on the political spectrum (extreme, hyper-partisan, skewing, and center/neutral, in both left- and right-leaning perspectives). Their data visualization helps media consumers like us stay aware of the likely perspective of news providers in whom we place our trust. An additional feature: In the interactive version, hovering over an icon provides evaluative data, clicking it links to the source, and scrolling down the page, one finds an alphabetical directory of news sources which link to detailed profiles of each source, including ownership, political bias, and reliability.

Because the content is licensed and may be downloaded for a fee, but can be viewed at no charge, we provide the link to help discern possible biases of media you or those in your life use to understand local, national, and world news. It can also help students of political science understand media bias, and help consumers of information defend against "nonsense" information. (LD25 does not endorse Ad Fontes Media nor recommend any purchase or affiliation with Ad Fontes Media or other information presented on their site.) 

Objective statement from Ad Fontes Media: 

"We rate the news for bias and reliability using a rigorous methodology and a politically balanced team of analysts. Our focus is on analyzing the news content of articles and shows.  Ad Fontes is Latin for “to the source,” because we rate the news by looking at the source itself."

Fact-Checking Outlets

Despite an attempt to locate the origin of this graphic and lack of attribution on the image iteself, it stands as an excellent list of outlets that one may use to check truth or falsehood of information. Because truth matters, it's up to each of us to double-check the accuracy of what we accept as truth and for us to be ready with the tools to do so. To paraphrase a familiar saying, "If it seems too good to be true - or too bad to be true - better check!"

A Google search of any of those outlets should result in finding the fact-checker.

To find handy, active links for fact-checking in easy-to-use formats, there are many online tools. Libraries and other sources offer linkable lists. This linkable list has been prepared for students by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).

Being an Informed Voter

What does a citizen and voter do both before an election and throughout their daily life? They stay informed and engaged. An informed and educated populace is necessary for our system of self-governance and democracy.

5 Tips for Being an Active, Informed Voter (Content from GenerationNation of Charlotte, NC,developing civic leaders from K-12 students) gives basic tips that every voter can follow.


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan, astrophysicist, author - quoted from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark