Last week, I wrote of my thoughts about taking a public stand on a local school bond measure. I very much appreciate the comment that Calpoppy posted and it really got me to thinking more positively about taking that public stand. (link to previous blog: Grassroots Political Activism)
My husband and I did quite a bit of research since I posted that blog. He checked into direct mail postcards. I checked into the legalities of political advertising with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. He found out that we could have a mailer printed on 6×9-inch card stock for around $300 and that the postal service has priced DDDM (Door to Door Direct Mail) service very reasonably so that mailing costs for our ZIP code would be around $300 as well. Nowhere, though, could either of us find a map or other indicator of what area is served by the Toledo school district. We know that the high school, at least, draws from a larger area than just Toledo, but how large an area? Husband learned, for example, that students in the nearby town of Vader have a choice of attending either Toledo or Winlock high school.
This morning, the advertising rep for the Town Crier visited us. That weekly newspaper serves Toledo, Vader, Winlock, Napavine, Castle Rock, and surrounding areas, so it certainly covers the entire Toledo school district. We gave her the following ad copy:
In my research, I learned that any print ad must include not only our names, but also our address. It is blurred out in this image because I feel that giving our address to southwestern Lewis County is enough. The rest of the world doesn’t need it, too.
We debated for awhile the merits of forming our own political committee. While the names of major donors and administrators of a political committee are a matter of public record, becoming a political committee would put one thin layer of privacy between us and the public. For purposes of this one little grass roots campaign, the extra bother hardly seemed worth it. Yes, there is some small possibility that a nut-case might decide to vandalize our home or look up our phone number and give us the benefit of their thoughts on the matter. That really is unlikely, especially over a matter such as this. We decided to forgo the veil of a political committee and just be ourselves.
In terms of expenditures, I learned that if we spend $500 in one month, we must report that to the State. Nice if the reporting requirement could be avoided, but certainly not a deal-breaker. The other little tidbit I gleaned was that the “Paid for by” statement must be in at least 10pt type with no formatting to make it less noticeable. We passed that information along to the advertising rep this morning.
Next week, I will look for an email with the proof copy of the ad for our approval. Then a check will be written to pay for it. The ad will run in the October 15th issue of the Town Crier — the very same day that ballots will be mailed out to all voters.
The Voters Guide makes no mention of how much the bond will cost residents, but our ad will spell that out as clearly as I know how. If the bond measure passes, that is the will of the people, but we can be happy that we helped the people make an informed decision. If the bond measure fails, then we will know that our money was well-spent and we did a public service.
We have done a lot of thinking and learned quite a bit along the way, not only about advertising and election law, but also about ourselves. Bottom line: it isn’t that difficult and, at least in terms of local issues, it doesn’t have to be horribly expensive. What it does require is a willingness to stand up on that virtual soap box in the town square and let your voice be heard. I am not the sort of person who can make a difference on broader issues, but I certainly might be able to make a difference in my own community. That really is what “grassroots” is all about.
(And in case any of you are wondering, I am not a tea partier. I am a progressive liberal independent. I am an advocate of public spending for the common good — things like infrastructure and universal health care and job training. I am, however, a very strong proponent of common sense and responsible choices. To my way of thinking, issues of public spending should only be approved if they make sense and are reasonable, not just because they are put on the ballot.)