NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – We’re just days away from swearing in our newly elected leaders both in Washington, D.C. and right here at home.
After voter enthusiasm was at an all-time high, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas shows us how to hold elected officials accountable.
In the fall, you voted by mail, or stood in the rain or in long lines to make your voices heard. But that was just the first step.
“With the pandemic and with, you know, economic and racial injustices and in our country, I think people are really looking for solutions that work,” said Dr. Sara Sayeed, executive director of the nonpartisan New York City Civic Engagement Commission.
Created last year, the goal is to build trust between communities and government, fostering participation that holds elected officials accountable at all levels.
“Attend your precinct council meeting. You will be able to understand better how public safety decisions are being made,” Sayeed said. “If you go to a community education council… you’ll be able to have a voice in what’s happening in the school system.”
There’s also what’s called a participatory budget where residents directly decide how money will be spent.
“What this allows us to do is engage residents directly to participate in decision making,” Sayeed said.
The Commission even has a program for youth between 9-24.
Watch: Full Conversation Between Cline-Thomas, Sayeed, Uzoigwe and Jafrey
“We run virtual events online. Just talking to young people from all across the city and having them speak about their needs and some of the issues that they gone through throughout this troubling time,” said Youth Fellow Darlene Uzoigwe.
Together, they’re determining how to best spend $100,000.
“Everyone’s mental health is declining, and they’re really pushing for services and more help to address those issues,” said Manahil Jafrey.
It’s getting the youth involved before many are eligible to vote.
“It’s an incredibly inspirational moment to be able to have that type of influence in my community and for so many other young people who join us on these calls. It’s the same thing for them,” Uzoigwe said.
But skepticism still looms in communities, despite the large voter turnout.
“That sense of mattering has been declining and we want to do what we can to help restore that and strengthen that, to say that we really care what you’re thinking,” Sayeed said.
“And really communities can’t change and communities can improve if the residents don’t feel empowered,” Cline-Thomas said.
“People have to feel like, you know, I care about my neighbor… and I care about what’s happening to me and my family, and we can work together to make sure that we influence policies and programs together,” Sayeed said.
Harnessing the moment to make a bigger difference. And the work is far from over.
More From CBS New York: