Civic Moving Hacks

 

So, your boxes are unpacked and you’ve made your requisite trips to Target, IKEA, the hardware store, etc. You’ve scoped out the nearby take-out restaurants, the closest pharmacy, and public transportation options. You even set up mail forwarding (or purposely didn’t set up mail forwarding, to throw off all the mass-mail marketing companies).

Congrats! Now that your move is over, you can forget about the horror of squeezing a couch in a small stairwell, and focus on a great adventure ahead.

Wherever you now reside, it’s time to join your new community.

I’ve put together a Simply Civics guide for community essentials, because like you, I hope to survive September 1st, and like you, I’m excited to see what’s going on around me ASAP. Now is the time to flex your civic muscles.  Even if you’re not moving, now is a great time to focus on your community.

Without further ado…

Joining a Community: The Moving Edition

  1. Visit your Town Hall. Say hey! Get comfortable so that when you have to pick up an absentee ballot or talk to the Community Planning Office, you know where to go. Check out the Town’s website to see what kind of meetings take place and where. Is there a big meeting room that you might go to for a local hearing? Does your School Committee or School Department have its own office? Where’s the Clerk’s Office located?
  2. While you’re at the Clerk’s Office, change your voter registration address. Do it now so you won’t have to scramble before the elections.
  3. Get a library card. Local libraries often assume to role of a community’s center. With a library card, you can check out books, but you can also use computers, take out e-books, reserve rooms, (in Brookline) check out library pans, reserve museum passes, attend classes, and conduct research. To get a library card, you will probably need a state-issued ID card, an identifying piece of mail, or a bank statement.
  4. Meet your neighbors. First, say hey to them outside or in your building, introduce yourself, and say which unit or building you’re in. Then, join NextDoor, a social media platform for your neighborhood. People post when they are trying to give something away, or looking for recommendations, or looking to hire a babysitter or pet sitter. It’s a great resource. To learn more about its many advantages, check out my post about NextDoor.
  5. Donate your duplicate furniture, appliances, clothes, etc., to a nearby organization where it can be put to better use. One excellent option is NuDay Syria. They have a number of drop-off locations listed on their website. See if any places of worship in your area are collecting household items/clothes/food for underserved families You could also consider posting on NextDoor to give away items to a neighbor.
  6. Subscribe to local news. Does your town or city have one or two major newspapers? Brookline has the TAB and Patch. Both are great and free. You’ll need to know what’s going on around you — upcoming initiatives, new shops and restaurants, winter weather how-to’s — and you might as well tune in now. Local news covers a lot of ground and is a great way to learn about your community.
  7. Mark your Calendar with Community-Wide Events. If you live or work in Brookline, mark your calendar now for Brookline Day. It’s on September 24 and it’s fun for all ages. I’ve been looking forward to it since last year’s Brookline Day. Your town might have holiday festivals, farmer’s markets, or even a Harvest Festival. Any Parks and Rec fans out theres?Pawnee Harvest Festival
  8. Get to know your public officials. This is a lot easier than it may seem. They’ll be listed on your town or city site. Many of them also have campaign websites, even outside of campaign season, so you can look up their priorities that way. While you’re doing this, pull up a map of your city or town to see if you’re in a specific precinct. You’ll need to know this come election time, but it’s great to know beforehand, too. Here’s Brookline’s precinct map. I’ll be changing precincts so I’ll have new Town Meeting Members.
  9. Follow your community on Twitter and other social media. I love this step. There are some public officials who post frequently and are very involved in town activities. Don’t be shy. They want you to follow them. Search for Twitter accounts for the library, schools, farmers markets, newspapers, art centers, transportation office, political organizations, the chamber of commerce, neighborhood services, etc. Some are better than others, but you can always unsubscribe at any time.
  10. Learn about Civic Organizations. There are so many out there, depending on your interests and availability. Talk to people to see what’s worthwhile and what would be up your alley. If you don’t have time to join one now, think about following their work and supporting them in your own way. Here are some ideas.

League of Women Voters. Talk to me if you’re interested in joining! Men are welcome, too!

Neighborhood Associations. Brookline has the Brookline Neighborhood Alliance and has specific neighborhood associations within it.

Town/City Political Parties. Political Parties always want more volunteers!

Town/City Working Groups and Committees. Brookline posts their openings here. Volunteering for a local board or committee is a fantastic way to serve your community.

School PTAs. I can’t really speak to this but if you have school-aged kids, you may think about this as a means to get to know other parents and get involved in the school.

Local Clubs. You’d be surprised what you can find with a quick Google search.

 

The Place to Start

Just like the process of moving, when it comes to joining a community, you can’t do it all at once. But there are some things you can do easily right off the bat.

Honestly, the list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a great starting point. Once you get the basics, you’ll be a community member in no time. Remember, there’s more to civic engagement than voting. At it’s core, civic engagement is about being active in civic life, and there are so many ways to do it. Find the ones that work best for you, and see where it takes you!

Since I’m a big fan of Chance the Rapper and I’ve had his version of the Arthur theme song (“Wonderful Everyday“) stuck in my head for days, I’m going to send you off with some words of wisdom from a good ol’ children’s show (random, but bear with me):

Everyday when you’re walking down the street, everybody that you meet
Has an original point of view
And I say HEY! hey! what a wonderful kind of day! 
Where you can learn to work and play
And get along with each other

You got to listen to your heart
Listen to the beat
Listen to the rhythm, the rhythm of the street
Open up your eyes, open up your ears
Get together and make things better by working together
It’s a simple message and it comes from the heart
Believe in yourself (echo: believe in yourself)
Well that’s the place to start (to start)

One last thing. If you Tweet a picture at @simplycivics of you doing any of these things in the next month, and tag #simplycivics, maybe I’ll write a blog post about you!

Happy Moving!

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?