As the battle in Washington State over ballot initiative 1098 comes to a head this week, the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative (TFOC) is running an innovative cross-training for its network of state tax fairness groups. This unique program is providing on-the-ground organizing and capacity-building resources for TFOC member Washington Community Action Network (CAN) while providing training in the strategy, messaging, and logistics of running a campaign to staff of TFOC groups.
Brooks Winner, an organizer with Opportunity Maine, is in Washington State this week lending a hand to the campaign. Below, he reports back from his first day in action.
Today was our first day of action and we spent most of the afternoon getting acquainted with the Washington CAN! office and staff. It seems like a really great group of talented and dedicated people. We made phone calls to local media outlets to notify them about a cool action that we're doing tomorrow at a local branch of one of the big evil corporate banks. We will basically be rounding up a group of Washington CAN! members to demand that the bank halt all foreclosures on homes in Washington and nationwide while they get their paperwork situation straightened out. Should be fun.
This evening we helped set up and run a Get Out the Vote Party at a local community center, definitely the highlight of the day. As a young, and relatively inexperienced organizer, it was great to see this type of big community event in action. There was a pretty big crowd and people were excited, engaged and passionate about their community. There was food provided, and live entertainment including the musical stylings of Bob, a homeless man with aspirations of running for a seat in the state legislature, and a special guest performance by the Seattle Raging Grannies! We went over the November 2nd ballot, reviewing the critical races and initiatives; discussed reasons for voting and running for office; and encouraged the group to take action by phone banking, talking to their friends, participating in other Washington CAN! events. It was a wonderful evening.
Lessons from the field for today: Tonight's Get Out the Vote Party was a great example of a well-run event that gets people fired up and excited about making their communities better places to live. It was a little bit thrown together, but the essential pieces were all there. First, the turnout was really solid. Second, and related to the good turnout, the free food and entertainment were key to keeping people happy and engaged. The grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup were a hit and a cheap way to feed lots of people. The Raging Grannies were a great finale, and Bob's musical interludes held the whole event together really nicely.
Finally, the event was a PARTY. It may seem silly to call a community meeting like this a party, but that's what it was. Making these events fun and celebratory is so essential, especially at a time when people are frustrated, scared, and worried about the future. People need to believe that there is reason to be excited, fired up and optimistic right now because so many people in the media, the political world and even their own communities are telling them that the hope is gone. The hope is still alive and tonight's event was evidence of that.