Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Involvement is key

First, apologies for missing an important event scheduled for Wednesday, October 18. Lewis Kuhlman of the La Crosse City Planning department will talk about how to navigate the city's online legislative information center. He will speak at 6 p.m. at the La Crosse Public Library, 8th and Main. This website is an important tool for citizen activists - it can help you find out when an important public hearing will be, track a piece of local legislation, or contact members of the city council or a board or committee. At the same time, it's not the easiest site to navigate so here's a chance to get some expert advice (and maybe offer suggestions for improvement).

While we're at it - did you know you can nominate yourself to serve on a city or county committee? Well, yes, you can! In most cases, citizen committee members are appointed from a pool of applicants, so first, you need to get your application in. For the city, visit the LIC Boards, Commissions, Committees page for the list, then complete the Application for Appointment to City Boards, Commissions, and Committees and mail it in. For the county, check the list of County Committees. Each committee link should have the committee chair listed along with contact information. If you would like to be considered the next time an opening comes up, email or send a letter to the chair with your contact information, your background and experience, and your reasons for wishing to be considered (use the city's application as a guide for what information to include).

Keeping up with what's going on is not always easy. There are so many causes and alerts - from national legislation to local ordinances. Locally, often info portals are opaque and hard to navigate, sometimes agendas are not posted until the very last minute, meetings are sometimes held at inconvenient times (like 10 a.m. on a work day) ... Here's a great TED Talk about it:

For state and national issues, it's good to join or subscribe to groups and organizations who send out action alerts. Some of the best are 5calls, Wisconsin Democracy CampaignCitizen Action of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Common Cause Wisconsin, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for Media and Democracy. A list of other great resources is below the calendar on the right of this page. What's missing? Please send links to your favs in the comments or email coulee progressive at hotmail.

You can also use sites like WisDC and PR Watch and Open Secrets to track campaign contributions and online fact checkers (but remember, facts don't matter - feelings matter!) though beware "fact checkers" run by right wing extemists!

You can also support local groups like League of Women Voters, which is hosting a Fair Maps event on October 25 and Our Wisconsin Revolution, hosting a Meet your County/State Government event on October 26, in their efforts to inform the public about voting and government. 

Whatever you do to keep yourself engaged and informed, one more step you can take is help others get more engaged and informed. Forward/Like/Retweet alerts to others, take a friend to a meeting or event, hold a neighborhood phone bank once a week to talk about and call about a few important issues, buy a subscription to a good mag (like The Progressive, The Nation, or Mother Jones, for example) for a relative, help a few students or colleagues deconstruct a misleading ad.

If you are pressed for time, hard schedule yourself some activist time once a day or a few times a week. Really. If you write in just one-half hour for activism every few days you could make several calls, work on a letter to the editor, attend a few events, or compose a blog post for Coulee Progressives.

What else? Please contribute to this list of ideas.

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