April Showers Bring May Elections

It’s election season again in Brookline, but it’s a lot different from this past November. This time, the people on the ballot are our neighbors.

For a lot of people, springtime means flowers, the Marathon, baseball, and eating lunch outside. For candidates for local office, springtime means campaigning is in full swing. Candidates are spending their evenings and weekends knocking on doors, stopping in at events, calling neighbors, asking for endorsements, and somehow getting enough sleep to function.

The issues this election season are monumental. Debates are centering around where to build the next K-8 school, how many more affordable housing units we should approve this year, whether it’s time for a debt exclusion, and what services our libraries will provide in the coming years. That’s not even all of it.

When Brookline residents go to the polls on Tuesday, May 2nd, they’ll be voting for town-wide offices and Town Meeting Members.

Contested

The Brookline Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Library Board of Trustees, and Town Meeting Members each have seats up for election this year. As a civic engagement nerd, I’m thrilled that there are more contested races this time than in previous years. That means more people want to get involved in our local government, which is fantastic news. The more, the merrier.

Since there are contested races, we each have some decisions to make. If we follow these simple steps, we’ll be ready to vote on May 2nd.

The 10 Steps to Voting Success

  1. Mark your calendar. Decide now whether you’ll vote in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, in the early evening. You can always change it later if your schedule shifts, but it’s important to have a reminder set. Polls will be open from 7:00AM to 8:00PM.
  2. Apply for an absentee ballot if you can’t vote on May 2nd.
  3. Check out a sample ballot for your precinct. They’re available on the Town website. Do you recognize any of the names?
  4. Read about the candidates. The Brookline TAB publishes a bunch of endorsements. Some of the candidates have websites where they spell out their positions on local issues.
  5. Attend candidate forums. The League of Women Voters of Brookline is hosting a forum for the candidates of town-wide office on Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30PM (refreshments at 6:00PM) in the Selectmen’s Hearing Room at Town Hall. Come hang out with the candidates and hear how and why they want to serve the community. The co-sponsors of the forum are the Brookline Neighborhood Alliance (BNA) and the Town Meeting Members Association (TMMA).
  6. Pick up the Voter’s Guide in the Brookline TAB, prepared by the League of Women Voters. Year after year, the League knocks this one out of the park. Shout out to Joel Shoner for putting it together!
  7. If a candidate knocks on your door, greet him or her with a smile. Then, ask them why they’re running and what they’d like to do if they get elected. Read the literature. Maybe you could take it a step further and canvass for a candidate yourself.
  8. If you still have questions for the candidates, ask them. It’s pretty easy to contact candidates. Plus, I’d be surprised if they don’t respond to you, because after all, they do want your vote. What’s unique about local elections is the candidates live in your community. You just don’t get that same accessibility with federal elections. Candidates for local office go to the same grocery stores as you, they take the Green Line with you. You can actually talk to them.
  9. Confirm your polling location. You want to show up at the right location.
  10. Vote! If you have children, bring them with you for a mini civics lesson.

There you have it. Ten is a nice round number. But I would be remiss if I said this list is exhaustive.

Even More Election Fun

Personally, I have some other Election Day traditions of my own. I channel my inner Leslie Knope and geek out about the democratic process.

Image result for parks and rec leslie knope democracy meme

(Gif cred: https://www.good.is/articles/leslie-knope-feminism)

Here are just a few extra activities you can do:

Listen to an Election Day playlist. Tweet about local issues. Reach out to your friends and family members and ask which candidates they support. Go to the BrooklineCAN forum on Monday, April 24 from 4:00PM-6:00PM at the Brookline Senior Center.

If you can swing it with your schedule, work at the polls! You’ll earn some cash, and more importantly, you’ll participate in the election process. It’s a truly moving experience to hand someone a ballot. Call the Brookline Clerk’s Office for more information: 617-730-2010.

See You at the Polls

As we often say in League of Women Voters events, democracy is not a spectator sport. Your vote is your voice.

Our local officials will have many big decisions to make in the next couple years, and we get to decide who will make them. That’s an awesome responsibility.

Plus, you’ll probably get one of those stickers. Who doesn’t love a good sticker?

Listen & Learn

Simply Civics is back! This past fall, I started a new job (which I love!) and after spending a few months learning the ropes, I’m now ready to dive back into Simply Civics.

That said, I have been grappling with what Simply Civics should be now. There’s a different political context in place since I last wrote here. In response to the new political realities, we’ve seen a surge of activism. There are a ton of bloggers and specialists writing about activism, and I support their incredible work.

Consequently, I’m going to leave that to the people who know best. I think my role is going to be more about figuring out where civic engagement falls into all of this. What does civic engagement mean to us, and which ways can we each best contribute to our local communities?

Things like: how to run for local office or campaign for people whose ideas you support, how to decipher and track the issues that most impact you and your neighbors, when to attend local events that promote civic and productive dialogue, how to track your legislators’ work, which community organizations to support with your time, effort, and if applicable, financial resources, and how do the types of news we subscribe to affect how we think and act.

The goal for Simply Civics is to provide opportunities for individuals to engage in meaningful ways in their communities. You may have different interests, schedules, passions, priorities, and talents than I do. In fact, you probably do. Simply Civics is really about finding the ways you can best contribute to your community. I believe in this, in you, and in our capacity to build thriving, inclusive, civic-minded communities.

Ready?

There is one thing that I think each of us can do, no matter who we are, and I’m going to use my return post to explore this idea.

How can we be civic on a daily basis?

Listen to others.

It sounds corny, right? I don’t just mean to listen when someone is talking to you. We learned that with our “please” and “thank you.”

What I mean is: let’s actively seek out opportunities to listen. Ask about people’s experiences. Then listen. Think about how people’s experiences shape their views of their community — local and national. In order to create communities where everyone can thrive and feel included, we must listen.

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of allyship, of being an ally to others. I know that not everyone agrees with the term allyship, but for me it means intentional, authentic solidarity. Actual solidarity, not just superficial solidarity.

Code Switch

One of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed. Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, the hosts of the podcast, are two of my idols. They shed light on racial issues in everyday life in the most poignant, forward-thinking, and inclusive manner.

A couple weeks ago during my commute, I listened to an episode called, “Safety-Pin Solidarity: With Allies, Who Benefits?

I don’t want to give much away, because I highly encourage you listen to it. But one of my key takeaways was the notion that being an ally is not an identity, it’s a relationship.

Since through civic engagement, we build connection in our communities, I think it’s important to be incredibly aware of the relationships we build. When we are intentional about reaching out to people with different experiences than our own, to hear them out, we grow in our understanding of the complex challenges and strengths of our communities.

Safety Pin Box

I’ve been trying to educate myself about authentic allyship, and I’ve come across some really fascinating organizations and writers on the topic that I am excited to share.

First, in the same Code Switch episode, Shareen Marisol Meraji interviews Leslie Mac, the co-founder of Safety Pin Box. The Safety Pin Box is a subscription service designed to guide ally-ship to achieve racial justice. The website explains the process this way:

“Black women receive financial support. White people work to end white supremacy. Black people guide white ally work. White people learn to redirect resources and do racial justice personal development. All of this and more, every single month.”

Each month, subscribers receive a box with 3 guided ally tasks to complete within the month to jumpstart their active participation in the fight against structural injustice.

Safety Pin Box is a for-profit company, and the subscription fees go towards supporting black female activists. It seems like a really creative and tangible way to simultaneously support leaders of color and learn about racial justice.

Everyday Allyship

In addition to learning how to be an ally to people of color, I’ve also been thinking about other types of allyship.

I want to be more intentional about supporting businesses and media that are inclusive of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identification, language, or religion.

How can I personally be a better ally to: the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees, the members of my community who are English language learners, and to those who practice different faiths than my own?

This seems to be a really vast question, but the answers to it really, truly matter. I am challenging myself to be honest as I ask these and other questions about allyship, and open and responsive to the answers. I hope you’ll join me and the many others who are committed to learning about and living in authentic solidarity.

Never Stop Learning

If you’re also interested in learning more about allyship, here are some other resources:

There are a ton more; this isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. With that said, if you know of other good places to start, please share them with me via the Contact Me page so I can post about them. Thank you in advance!

To sum it all up, let’s: learn courageously, listen authentically, think boldly, and act civically.

I feel optimistic about the future of civic engagement in our communities.