Management & Legislative Affairs

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The Power of Citizens to Help Shape Public Policy

The Portsmouth City Council supports and strongly encourages all of our citizens to participate in the formation of public policy, not only for our city but also for our region, our commonwealth, and our nation. Citizen participation is the bases of the democratic contract we have agreed to and have adhered to since the founding of our country. However, to be effective, one must understand how to participate:

A Quick Primer on U.S. Governmental Structure

As citizens of the country, our democratic contract provides us with various opportunities to participate in and shape public policies and how our tax dollars are expended.  We are privileged in our country to participate through voting, attending and participating in public meetings, and submitting public policy and budgetary suggestions for consideration.

Public participation can take place in several ways:

  • Phone calls
  • Email messages
  • Faxed messages
  • Personal appearances at public legislative meetings

Unless otherwise noted, all general meetings elected officials to hold are open to the public. This includes:

  1. Local Government - The Portsmouth City Council generally meets on the second and fourth Mondays and Tuesdays of each month. Council is comprised of seven (7) members, including the mayor).
  2. State Government - Our state-elected legislators (Delegates and Senators) meet annually in Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly is comprised of 140 members (40 senators; 100 delegates).
  3. Federal Government - They generally meet year-round, with periodic breaks. Congress consists of 535 members (100 senators/435 members of Congress).

What Branch of Government to Contact with an Issue? 

When advocating for or against an issue, it is essential to know which level of government has the ability and authority to address the matter. 

  1. Do not take local issues to your federal or state government elected officials (i.e., ordinances, parking, street repairs, bus service, etc.) 
  2. Do not take state or federal issues to your local government officials (i.e., Constitutional Amendments, local government Charter changes, penal system issues, mass transportation, tuition, fees, etc.)  
  3. Do not take federal issues to your state and local representatives (i.e., Social Security, Internal Revenue, Medicaid or Medicare, military issues, etc.).

If you would like to contact your representatives, you can click here.

For proper engagement with a representative, look at these tips.