(Photo by Julie Zeglen)
The state of Pennsylvania contains almost 5,000 local governments.
That includes counties, municipalities, townships and school districts. But why so many? What purposes do they each serve? And how many Americans really understand how their own local governments operate?
“Local government education is a huge gap,” said Philly educator and nonprofit pro Nick Marzano via email. “It just isn’t (normally) taught in school, and yet it has a direct impact on our lives when it comes to justice, health, education, quality of life, etc.”
Marzano is looking to bridge that knowledge gap with his new self-produced podcast, “Local Nation,” a sort of oral history exploring how America’s system(s) of government came to be.
The podcast’s first two episodes outline the basics of government structure and district attorneys’ roles. Future “101” episodes will cover zoning, state legislatures, school districts, city charters, public utilities and the like. At about 20 minutes each, it’s “enough to provide vocabulary and context for subsequent interviews,” possibly with guest experts, Marzano said.
As he discloses in his “Local Nation” bio, Marzano isn’t an academic or election official — “just a nerdy citizen who’s curious about the institutions and ideas we’ve invented.” But he’s also the former board president of civic engagement-focused Young Involved Philadelphia and known around social impact circles as a go-to guy for all things democracy.
“Local Nation” is a passion project for now, but Marzano’s goal is to grow it so it becomes a “catalyst for engagement.”
“The best place to learn is still participation: knocking doors for a campaign, going to neighborhood meetings, petitioning, voting. The show needs to connect with that at some level,” he said. “I have some grand plans for making the podcast a more interactive, multi-directional conversation with the listener community in the future.”
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