Moving Forward

I walked into the coffee shop that Saturday morning in April and was surprised to find so many people waiting there for me.

It was the weekend after our first failed budget attempt, and our First Selectman (what our tiny little town called the person who acted as its mayor) had offered to meet a group of us parents worried about the probable cut he would make offered to meet some of us for coffee.  I was astounded at the familiarity one could have with someone in a leadership role here, but the process of voting lended itself to a very open leader.

As I’d tried to get the word out on my own about the budget, I’d gradually learned others shared my feelings.  There were several women from our town’s Parents Council who privately asked me what I thought we could do to pass the budget on the next try (rather than the six tries it took the previous year).  But there were also men, fathers who were on the soccer fields on the weekends and talking with their coworkers during the week about their worries for their property values.

“I think we need to formalize our efforts here.  Create a group, a brand, use the internet to help us get the word out, and just get as many people as we can to learn the truth about what’s at stake with the vote,” said a man named Mike, whom I was meeting for the first time today. “I mean, think of how fast viral emails get passed around the internet.  If we could do something like that, we’d have a shot.”

I looked knowingly at one of my friends.  “I already set up a website before the first vote.  I could easily set up a mailing list for it; I just added a mailing list to the art studio’s website over the winter, so I know how.  Then we could just pull emails from everywhere we can of everyone we know, pool them, and start sending out information.”

“That’s great,” said another man from across the sofa.  This guy was on the Board of Education and was a good resource for facts and information.  “Maybe we could ask the PTOs for help with that; they collect a lot of emails.”

“What about flyers?” asked my friend Jessica, whom I’d dragged with me to the meeting today.  With both of us having special needs kids, we were concerned about the effects of the budget on our needy children.  I’d seen the discussions last winter and been horrified at how my child was reported upon in a book, counted as one of the “identified children”.  A board member had asked if there was any way to reduce the amount of children “identified”, much to my horror.

“That’s a good idea,” chimed in the first selectman.  “I can show you how to attach them to mailboxes without putting them in, which is illegal.  If you think about it, this really is a political campaign you’re talking about here.  Think about how politicians get elected; they get their name and message out on mailboxes, with emails and websites, with phone calls.”

“Phone calls,” I said with a level of dread.  “How would we do that?”

“You look at the voter registration lists. You can ask the registrar of voters to compare the lists of who votes; call the people who vote sometimes but not all the time.  When we get more voters, we win.  It’s the apathetic voters, the ones who don’t bother voting until they’re worried about the schools, that we need to get out for this vote to pass.”

“I think we should call ourselves ‘MOVE’,” said Mike.  “We’re Monroe’s Organized Voters for Education.  We’re organizing the voters, and we’re talking about education.”

“I like it,” I said, taking a sip of my coffee.  “It has energy. The tagline can be ‘Moving Monroe Forward.’  I can make a logo for it, put it on the website, create a brand so people remember.” Finally, I thought, all of that unpaid website work was coming in handy.

“That sounds great,” said the First Selectman.  “If you can pull this off, you will really be changing the game in this town.”

I liked the sound of that.  I liked the idea of being part of something positive, something collaborative, where I liked and respected and had much in common with the others working towards the goal.  I hadn’t been a part of something, a team, for years now.  I’d forgotten how much I missed it.

“To MOVE,” I said, holding up my cup.

“To MOVE,” the group responded, toasting the new entity we’d just formed.

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One Response

  1. […] why, a few years ago, a group of people and I started an education advocacy group.  To help inform parents about the budget votes, to let them know what was really at stake and […]

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