Notes from a meeting with a state delegate

Several Indivisibles had the opportunity to meet with state Del. Pat Young. He provided some dos and don’ts of constituent interaction.

DON’T
-Be Aggressive. This is especially true if it is from a “faceless” organization and don’t have a relationship.
-Be Angry. Angry phone calls do not accomplish what you think they may accomplish.
-Threaten not to vote for them.  Rather word it as “I will remember your vote” or “I want to be able to vote for you in the future”.
-Send in a form email.

DO
-Create a relationship with the representative. This helps establish trust. You can do this over the phone so they (and the staff) get to know you or in person.
-Organize and be prepared to explain your position and what you want.
-Act and be professional.
-Be specific with you want. Telling him to support wildlife is not helpful. Telling him to support a specific bill or a specific action such as “increase funding by X amount in Y area to support Z wildlife” is better.
-Research!  Know the details, including sponsor and co-sponsor’s.  For example, no need to aggressively write to a representative to support a bill if they are the sponsor.
-Get the bill in before the session begins. Once the state session begins it is difficult to have the time to research, form an opinion on, gain support, and decide.

What Bills are important?
Often times during a legislative session many bills are proposed. It is still true that only a handful of them will ever become law. However, how can you tell which ones stand a good chance?

According to the delegate, you don’t know for sure. However, you can get a feel for which one may be important (and thus have enough support) by looking at who proposed it and the committees they are on.

For example, if the Chair of the Veteran’s Committee proposed a bill that seeks to provide a one-time tax break for veterans when they purchase a Maryland home, you can assume that the bill stands a good job at getting out of committee and onto the floor for debate.

How to craft a good Email?
The subject of emails came-up and Del. Young provided some helpful advice. Email is often the easiest way to get into contact with the delegate. The delegate, when an email is received, will place them into a folder or add them into a count (such as # for and # against). The delegate will often try to respond to each email. Though, your milage may vary with other ones.

However, when crafting an email one should adhere to several guidelines:
1. Keep it short. It should be a paragraph 5 to 6 sentences.
2. If a bill number is known add it.
3. Explain who you are.
4. Where you are from (best if you are a constituent, be clear that you are).
5. Background of yourself.
6. Why is it important to the district I live in. There should be a clear link to how it will affect the district.
7. You should be knowledgable, personal, and thoughtful.
8. When writing a subject line it should be short and to the point. Include a name and location. Add a Bill Number

An example:

Subject line: John Smith | Catonsville | Concern about wildlife | Bill#12345

Dear Del. Young,
My name is John Smith. I am a taxpayer and hunter living in Catonsville, Maryland. The Catonsville area has several state parks, with major roads abutting them. There is a bill #12345 which seeks to limit the amount of deer a hunter can bag each season. According to ABC source, this will lead to an increase of the deer population. My wife works late and takes these roads home. I worry about an increase in motor vehicle accidents and injuries, which would lead to increased insurance costs for people living in the area. Please vote NO on the bill.

Thank you

Advertisements

Baltimore Steering Committee Notes April 8th

IndivisibleMD – Organizational Meeting
April 8, 2017

Introduction
This meeting was called by J, Chief Strategist for IndivisibleMD. The stated purpose was to develop a Steering Committee that would guide future efforts by IndivisibleMD volunteers, and time permitting to conduct training on Building Power and Getting Ready for the Next Fights. J has been meeting with individual group leaders and coalitions that are forming across the state. A common wish is for a coordinating entity that can facilitate the sharing of information, resources, plans, and activities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the grassroots organzations. IndivisibleMD is willing to take on this role, but the member groups should define the mission and functions, and conduct decision-making on issues that will arise.

Discussion/Questions/Ideas (organized by themes that emerged)
1. Purpose of a coordinating organization
a. IndivisibleMD was established per the Indivisible Guide with a focus on national-level issues. Early on there were requests to get involved in state and local issues. What criteria to use for deciding what to engage on and what not to engage on?
b. The national-level Indivisible Team is not interested in forming an organization that supports and coordinates activities across states. They are focused on creating tools and training materials for distribution to local groups.
c. How do we best share information across groups? How do we tailor information in a way that is useful to local groups versus broad information at the state or national level?
d. We should monitor the legislative calendar and send calls to action that are timely with scheduled votes at committee or general assembly levels rather than send out calls to action and bombard elected officials offices with statements at a time when no action is being taken. Staffers are beleaguered with the volume of calls and wish these to be more timely with votes.
e. One staffer suggested that organizing a petition drive on an issue would be helpful to the elected official who can point to a document with many names that support/oppose a particular position.
f. We should monitor the votes and positions taken by elected officials and create scorecards for future reference. This holds them accountable.
g. Should Indivisible groups engage in supporting/opposing individual election campaigns? Should we be wary of being coopted by a political party to help them with their campaign efforts?
h. What does it mean to be non-partisan? Does this term confuse people or discourage people who want to support a particular party that shares their values/goals? Is the term “not-affiliated with a party” a better way to say this?
i. Why are we pushing Democrats away? There are no Republicans who are supporting the liberal/progressive priorities. Why aren’t we supporting the candidates who share our views?
j. The current mission statement for IndivisibleMD was created 2 months ago by the then-current volunteers, but can be changed to suit the member groups who participate in the coalition. The mission statement should be helpful in sorting out what the coordinating group will do/not do.
k. There are many political issues and many diverging views on these issues. A coordinating group can invest a lot of time in working out positions based on members’ views, or it can leave that activity to local groups where the interest and energy is. Perhaps the coordinating group states objectives at a high level to allow room for local group choices.
l. The mission statement should have a long-term focus and not be specific to named persons and parties. One group has described concepts that they support or oppose in their mission statement to avoid the short-term nature of specific persons, e.g. being anti-Trump.
m. There is interest in helping Eastern and Western Maryland change the views of their residents and change the elected officials to support more liberal progressive actions. Any actions in those areas need to be directed by local groups, not proscribed by people from outside those Districts.
n. IndivisibleMD needs to define its goals and be able to measure when it has achieved those goals. This is important in maintaining member interest and engagement.
o. Rather than try to be all things to all groups, the steering committee needs to define a limited set of initial objectives that can be expanded later as the group matures and stabilizes.

2. Membership Criteria/Structure of Steering Committee
a. There many organizations that exist with liberal, progressive, resistance, and party affiliations. Should members be limited to Indivisible-affiliated groups or open to other groups with similar goals? The existing Maryland Resistance Coalition has membership of Indivisible-affiliated and other groups.
b. Coalitions are forming in areas such as I-Baltimore Coalition, MoCo Coalition, 1st District Coalition, and PG County Coalition. Should the steering committee be made up of a leader from these coalitions?
c. Having a member on the steering committee from each group is not workable since there are many, many groups. We could end up with a committee of 100 people.
d. Should the Steering Committee reflect the proportional membership of each area? Central Maryland is more population dense and has many large groups. Eastern and Western Maryland are less dense and have fewer, smaller groups.
e. A steering committee formed this month does not have to be permanent and can change its structure and membership as the needs of the member groups evolve. Perhaps the initial steering committee lasts for 6 – 9 months?
f. Discussion coalesced around a Congressional District-based steering committee with each member responsible for communications with each group that has members in their District. Some groups have members in multiple districts and they should choose a single District to identify their representative on the steering committee.
g. The member groups should identify a liaison person to communicate with the group’s District representative on the steering committee. The District rep. would be responsible for meeting with the group liaisons in his/her District and sharing information and representing the group’s views. P volunteered to draft a description of District Captain roles and responsibilities.
h. Those present at today’s meeting will be temporary District Captains. They are charged with canvassing the groups in their Congressional District and democratically electing a single person to serve as the District Captain on the Steering Committee. District Captains need to be identified by April 22, 2017.
i. IndivisibleMD can provide a list of known groups in each District and contact information to assist the temporary District Captains reach out to potential member groups.

3. Tools currently provided by IndivisibleMD
a. Website at http://www.Indivisiblemd.org provides information on elected officials, an events calendar, a discussion blog for each Congressional District, and postings on current news items. The platform is Weebly, and it is possible to establish a page for each member group, specific issues to consolidate information, and other topics.
b. Chat app at Slack.com has been established to provide a secure space for MRC member discussions. IndivisibleMD needs a request to join and an email address for each member. Send your request to: XXX . Once in, there are tutorials on how to use Slack, multiple channels for discussion organized by topic, and capability for people to have a more private one-on-one chat.
c. IndivisibleMD also has a Slack site currently used by our volunteers for internal operations and information-sharing.

4. Miscellaneous
a. Non-profit organizations are either IRS 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). The “c3” is very limited in lobbying or support political candidates and the “c4” has fewer limits. Understanding the rules is important to avoiding legal issues.
b. We need to include efforts to recruit and train new members. Diversity is lacking in some groups. We tend to cluster by race or age and lack skills to reach groups who are not like “us”. Continuously recruiting and mobilizing new members will be key to long term success.

Decisions
1. The Steering Committee will initially be composed of one representative serving as a District Captain for all participating groups with members in the specific Maryland Congressional District.
2. The District Captain will be the link between participating member groups and the Steering Committee to represent their views and communicate actions by the Steering Committee.
3. This initial structure can change over time as the needs of the member groups change.
4. Those present at today’s meeting will be temporary District Captains. They are charged with canvassing the groups in their Congressional District and democratically electing a single person to serve as the District Captain on the Steering Committee. District Captains need to be identified by April 22, 2017.
5. J will schedule the first meeting of District Captains for a date after April 22, 2017.

Baltimore Area Steering Committee Meeting Notes

3/30/17 Steering Committee meeting

Town Hall

  • 4/20 from 7 to 9pm, doors at 6pm hopefully
  • Cummings, Sarbanes, and Ruppersberger have agreed
    • We’ve invited Van Hollen w/o response
    • Cardin was invited but not confirmed the date
  • Topic will be how Trump’s agenda affects Baltimore City directly
    • Criminal justice reform, immigration, and education will be the main topics
    • We want to allow the MoC to give introductory statements for 15 minutes
    • Invite speakers who have been impacted by one of the three topic issues and ask a question (45 minutes)
    • General Q&A moderated by member of BMore, also acting as a timekeeper (1hr)
  • Ticketing
    • War Memorial has capacity of 1000 people
    • Very much want diversity in audience members, and don’t want to just release them online
    • Looking to give blocks of about 200 tickets to organizations that are speaking
    • Some reserved for Indivisible members
    • Because they are free tickets, there is a problem with no-shows.  We’d like to have day-of first-come-first served walk-ins.
  • Misc. info
    • Parking will be hard, will give clear parking instructions
    • Thinking about a postcard with action items on every chain (or something like that)
    • Going to cost about $600 total, BMore member is fronting this money and we’re looking to have a pass-the-hat fundraiser during the town hall.  The budget doesn’t include $ for promotions or handouts.  The space has AV equipment.
    • We’re going to need about 24 or more volunteers for set up, etc.
  • Things that need help!
    • A team of volunteers to get there before 6pm.  If you’re interested in volunteering, send me an email and I can put you into contact.
    • Promotion to our individual groups – This event isn’t public knowledge but you should be talking with your individual groups about saving the date.

Baltimore Area Indivisible Website

  • Live, but a lot of the content is missing.
  • There should be a live stream of the town hall on our website.
  • We should have a strategy of how the content is written.
  • We’ll wait for more people who have worked on the website to continue this conversation.

Climate March

  • April 29th
  • We need more information, those that have spearheaded this aren’t here.
  • Indivisible Towson chartering a bus to the science march on April 22nd.  If you’re interested in getting on this bus, contact send me an email and I can put you into contact with the organizer.

Elections

  • Four special elections coming up: Georgia, Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, (plus one in California which is a safe seat for Democrats)
      • These are vacant b/c previous MoC was appointed to cabinet
      • Generally low turnout, possible for an energetic group to come in and sway the election.
    • Georgia’s 6th District – Jon Ossoff
      • Attend phone banking meetings
      • Donate
      • Call your friends and family who live in this area
    • Virginia and New Jersey are having a governor’s race
  • Beyond the special elections
    • Swing Left, Flippable, Progressive Maryland, National Democratic Redistricting Committee
    • Indivisible can be hosting political anti-Trump forums
    • We could host clinics to teach potential progressive candidates on the ins and outs of running for an elected office, prepare them for campaigning
    • Invite people / organizations to our meetings that are tuned into local and national elections
    • Going north into PA for voter registration drives

Weekly Action

  • Jon Ossoff
    • Attend one of two phone bank opportunities to call voters in his district.
    • Donate money to his campaign.
    • Call your friends and family who live in this district to support his campaign.
  • Senator Cardin
    • Continue to all
    • Have each of your Indivisible groups to write a letter to Senator Cardin’s state director Carleton Atkinson at carleton_atkinson@cardin.senate.gov.

 

Background of Special Elections

Summary of Special Elections

Background
Special elections are elections held to replace vacant congressional seats. The dates and formats of elections vary from state to state and district to district. In 2017, there will be five special elections. Four are for congressional seats previously held by Republicans who were appointed to serve in the Trump administration. One is a seat previously held by a Democrat who resigned to become Attorney General of California. Historically, because they are not on regularly scheduled dates in November, special elections tend to have low turnout. That means a very motivated party can theoretically “flip” an otherwise uncompetitive district.

California 34
Date: April 4
Cook Political Report Rating: Safe Democrat
Democratic Candidate(s): Many
Notes: Incumbent resigned to become AG

Kansas 4
Date: April 11
Cook Political Report: Safe Republican
Democratic Candidate: James Thompson
Libertarian Candidate: Chris Rockhold
Republican Candidate: Ron Estes
To volunteer/donate Democrat: http://www.votejamesthompson.com/
To volunteer/donate Libertarian: ??
Notes: Democratic candidate feuding with state party over refusal to pay for mailers. Not a good sign.

Georgia 6
First Round Date: April 18
Second Round Date: June 20
Cook Political Report: Lean Republican
Democratic Candidate: Likely Jon Ossoff
Republican Candidate: Many
Libertarian Candidate: Chase Oliver
To volunteer/donate Democrat: https://electjon.com/
Notes: Clinton lost this district by 1 percentage point, so this is Dems’ top target. All candidates enter “jungle primary” regardless of party, top two face each other in runoff. Ossoff has raised millions, and has raked in high profile endorsements, but is still an underdog in a district that was once Newt Gingrich’s and Dems have not won since 1980.

Montana At-Large
Date: May 25
Cook Political Report: Likely Republican
Democratic Candidate: Rob Quist
Libertarian Candidate: Mark Wicks
Republican Candidate: Greg Gianforte
To volunteer/donate Democrat: http://robquist.org/
To volunteer/donate Libertarian
Notes: This is a whacky one. Montana has only one member of the House, because they have such a low population. Rob Quist is a famous local folk singer. He has no political experience beyond endorsing Bernie Sanders for President, but his music is great. Basically, the theme of his campaign is that he is a true Montana guy who grew up on a ranch. His opponent is a business person who is extremely conservative. He has already run for Governor once, and lost to a Democrat. For all Montana is a very red state, Dems actually control the Governor’s office and have a senator there. So Dems have an outside shot.

South Carolina 5
Date: June 20
Cook Political Report: Safe Republican
Democratic Candidate: Undecided
Republican Candidate: Undecided
Notes: Primary won’t be held until May 2. Dems controlled this district as recently as 2010, but it’s moved to the right a lot since then.