Grassroots Political Activism


There will be a school bond measure on the ballot where I live in rural western Washington.  If it passes, local property taxes will increase by about $600 per year for the average home in this area, about a 33% increase.  In round numbers, the school board wants to spend $23,000,000 on improvements and upgrades to a high school that has 300 students.  When I first read about this, in a mailing sent out by the school district last spring, I was stunned.  Since then, there has not been an editorial in the local weekly newspaper.  No further mailings.  No campaigning.  Nothing.  I find that amazing.

People in Washington state vote by mail.  Ballots will be mailed out in a couple of weeks and the deadline for voters to mail them back is November 4.  Since voting can and does happen over a two-week period at the end of October, the time for political advertising and mailers happens about a week from now.

I happen to feel that amount of the proposed bond measure is outrageous for the size of the school.  The property tax increase to pay for school improvements will last for 30 years and — who’s kidding who? — long before that bond is paid for, the school district will have need for further special funding.  Because of my strong feelings, I have been giving thought to putting out my own mailing or newspaper ad to campaign against this bond measure.

Those thoughts prompted me to do some research.  And some serious thinking.  Election laws require that paid political advertisements must include the name and address of the person or organization that paid for the ad.  So if I decide to do a mailing, my name and address has to appear on that mailing.  Same if I decide to place a display ad in the local weekly paper.  Also, if I spend more than $500 in one month, which I might do, I need to file a report with the Public Disclosure Commission in Washington state.

The money is not a serious issue.  I do not mind spending the equivalent of one year’s property tax increase in order to help defeat a 30-year tax increase.  That seems like a reasonable investment.  Or gamble.  Depending on how you want to look at it.

On the other hand, and despite the fact that I blog and post photos publicly, I value my privacy quite a bit.  I am not very comfortable with the idea of publishing my opinion, along with my name and address.  Nor do I like the idea of filing papers with the state that makes it a matter of public record that I am a “grass roots lobbyist”.  That whole public disclosure thing makes me nervous because I don’t know what else might happen because of it.

On yet another hand, I understand with and agree with the public disclosure laws.  If anything, I think there should be more public disclosure of names, rather than anonymous Super-PACs.  I don’t like that our politicians and statewide ballot measures are bought and paid for by the super-PAC that has the most money.  Consequently, I am a firm supporter of grass roots movements, but as a follower, not a leader.  In many ways, public disclosure the modern equivalent of someone standing on a soapbox in the town plaza to tell others what he thinks, as was done long ago.  Such a person would not stand on that soapbox with a bag over their head to hide their identity.  So why should someone today be able to have their say while hiding their identity.  Free speech is not anonymous speech.

There is so much voter apathy in this country.  Too many people don’t bother to vote because they think their vote won’t matter.  Too many people make up their minds how to vote, based on whose ad they happen to remember while blacking in the boxes on the ballet.  People need to cast their votes.  More than that, they need to understand what and who they are voting for or against.

That said, from a privacy standpoint, I would prefer to remain silent and anonymous, cast my vote, and hope for the best.  From a moral standpoint, how can I not stand up and make my voice heard on an issue I feel strongly about?  There does not appear to be any middle ground, at least none that I can see.

The voter’s guide will not include arguments for and against something so small as a local school bond measure.  It appears that no one else is going to stand up and be heard about this issue, on either side.  To borrow a couple of rhetorical questions and make them my own:  If not me, who?  If not now, when?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The issues I raise and the questions I ask in this blog cannot be new or unique.  People who have made a stand, or chosen not to, have surely asked themselves these or similar questions first.

I would like to invite comments, observations, and opinions from any who read this.  Forget the details of my little local ballot measure issue.  Instead, think about any issue.  If you have strong feelings about something that will appear on your local ballot and nobody else is saying anything, what would you do?  Anything?  Nothing?  Would you put your name and address on your opinion and make it all public?  Or would you keep your head down, cast your vote, and hope for the best?  Or would you find yet a third alternative?  What would you do?

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6 thoughts on “Grassroots Political Activism

  1. I have always been a bit of an activist, so I am inclined to say you should do what you can do to tell people what is wrong with this ballot measure. If it is a letter to the editor of your local paper, speaking in front of the School Board or just talking to neighbors, if you feel strongly then action is needed. I and some other parents started a group to close down an elementary school because of a business next to the school was spraying benzene in the air next to the kid’s playground. Known to be cancer causing substance. We went door to door with petitions, spoke at the school board meeting (myself included) and lost! But I had my one school aged son transferred to another school in the district. At least I did something to let others know of the problem.

    I still write my Senators, Congressman other states Governors for the things that I believe strongly about.

    Good luck with your decision, Briar!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing a bit of your own story. I would imagine that, even though you lost on that issue, you could at least feel good that you tried and gave it your best. That has to be better than sitting at home, kicking yourself, and thinking, “If only I had done something.”

      Great advice, Calpoppy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting blog(s) entries, Briar. Interesting to learn more about you and also Calpoppy. As for the issue at hand, that seems like an excessive amount of money for that high school. Fortunately, I currently live in area with barely any infrastructure, much less a school of any kind, and we don’t have very high property taxes. Nor street lights or even a connection to the water grid. I have lived in high tax places before, i.e. San Francisco, and just accepted it. That is a big increase in your property taxes and I applaud your thinking about fighting it.

    All my adult life I have had to contend with being essentially a second class citizen. And then contend with survival itself against an indifferent society and government. The LGBTQ community has fought long and hard for decades just trying to secure basic rights in this country. And against a disease that almost took out a whole generation of us and continues to wreak havoc. Although, not as activist as some of my peers I do try to do whatever I can however I can. G and I were one of the first 50 same sex couples to participate in then Mayor Willie Brown’s (former mayor of San Francisco) domestic partnership ceremony on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. Mayor Gavin Newsom (former mayor of San Francisco) took it to the next level by defying California and US laws and started marrying same sex couples with the same equal status of their heterosexual counterparts about a decade later.

    I just do whatever I can do. With social media now the access and reach has expanded tremendously. I am now a “social media activitist” to a certain extent regarding the passing of ENDA (Employment Non- Discrimination Act) for LGBT Americans. The current bill being presented is too flawed with too much of a broad exemption for religious organizations. A law that could (and currently is) very easily abused. We want a law similar to the 1964 Civil Rights Bill that provides LGBT Americans from discrimination in Employment, Housing, etc.

    So yes, stand up for yourself and fight back!! As we use to say (and still do,) SILENCE = DEATH.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can only imagine your fight for equal rights from the standpoint of one who supports human rights in general and, as a child, hated that I was born female. I also know the feeling of walking into a tiny cafe in the Oregon desert and being met by the hostile glares of a dozen native American men who did not welcome a white woman’s presence. That is not a nice feeling at all. As to LGBT rights, I don’t get why it is that the bible-thumpers in this country and around the world get to stand in judgment of other people who did not choose to be born gay or with the wrong gender identity. Human rights is something we all deserve. Equally. To create laws that classify some people as second class is just wrong on so many levels.

      I learned long ago to pick my battles. There are a lot of wrongs to right and laws to fix. I can’t fight them all and still have a life, so I pick where I can make a difference.

      I don’t know about Silence = Death. In some places, speaking up can mean death. Depends on the time and place and circumstances. Certainly spread knowledge wherever you can.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, speaking up can mean death now in places like Uganda and Russia. Don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. So, the LGBT here in the US (a more civilized society) are trying to do that for them. Basically, just lobby for efforts to get them the hell out of there! Yes, none of us are superhuman, although I know a few that seem to be and am amazed by their energy. Just do what you can.

    Like

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