Are you feeling powerless? Does it seem like you are at the mercy of banks, loans, government with little accountability? While it takes a grand effort on our parts to have a voice in economic bailouts or Obama’s foreign policy, we actually do have a lot of control over some of the simple things that matter most —
Water. Schools. Roads. Libraries. Parks.
These are basic building blocks of strong and vibrant communities. How they are managed, cared for and maintained can have significant impacts, both positive and negative, on the quality of life for families in rural Oregon. The deepening economic crisis makes decisions about the allocation and administration of our public resources and services all the more critical.
Luckily, you and I get to be involved in this process with the special elections on Tuesday, May 19th. It’s our opportunity to weigh in on crucial community issues and to decide which people we want to represent us in local decision-making bodies like the school board, fire protection and water districts. Does that seem dull? These representatives decide critical issues in your everyday life and may even have some sway in spending the stimulus money coming your way.
ROP hopes you will take the next few weeks to do some simple investigation to prepare both yourself and your community to make well-informed decisions next month. Here are some ideas and resources to help you:
- Find out what’s on your ballot. Visit the OR Secretary of State’s webpage to find the link to your county’s election page, where you can find information on candidates and proposed measures.
- Dig a little deeper. Where do candidates stand on the issues? One popular tool that has been used by Human Dignity Groups in the past is a School Board Candidate Questionnaire. This one-page questionnaire can be adapted to reflect the issues concerning your community, then distributed to candidates to complete or used to conduct a simple 15 min phone interview with each candidate.
- Share the info with your friends and neighbors. Consider the best way to get the info out to your community. You could hold a community meeting, send an e-mail with interview results, or write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper with your analysis or recommendations based on your research.
Ready to take this to the next level? Not long ago ROP member group, Crook County Human Dignity Advocates, found out that there was no organized campaign to support a local school levy that would restore funding lost due to cuts in the state budget. Their school year is already facing a 15 day cut and this levy would create smaller classes, as well as support arts and sports programs. So HDA decided to start their own campaign. With ROP’s support, they have used the VAN voter database to identify 1,000 of the county’s most likely supportive voters. Over the next month, they will organize volunteer calling parties to call each of these voters, identify those committed to voting in favor of the levy, and make a reminder call to get them to vote. Way to go, HDA!
If your group is interested in doing something similar in your own community, let us know – we can support your efforts. And whatever you choose to do, no matter how simple or involved, please let us know about it and how else we can help! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-543-8417.