Week 4 Recap: Civic Engagement

What a week! It’s not every election (and certainly not the one three years ago) that everyone and everything I vote for ends up winning. But that’s what happened this year. Without any formal way to predict the outcome, people were pretty on edge about how the trash referendum would pan out. The folks on the “no” side were very vocal about their beliefs, and depending who you talked to, it felt like they easily could have won.

I worked from home on election day, so I went to the polls mid-morning. I then checked in for my text banking shift. It wasn’t working at first, but eventually the organizers figured out that all of the texts were done and had me do some phone banking instead. I can’t recall if I’ve ever done that before, but if I did it was back in college. The software was pretty slick–it synced up to my cell phone so the calls looked like they were coming from a local number, and it automatically dialed all the numbers as I went down the list.

I made 40 calls, and the majority went unanswered. I left two voicemails, and got three or four real people on the phone. Most of the people I reached had already voted or were planning to vote the way I was advocating for. I was able to educate one of them on the endorsed school board candidates, and the last person I talked to was particularly receptive. On voting day, most people have (hopefully) already made up their minds, so the message was more about making sure they got to the polls to cast their votes.

That night, I went back and forth between checking Twitter, Facebook and refreshing the Secretary of State website for the results. At each update, the “Yes” trash vote was in the lead. By a wide margin. Sometime after 10 p.m., it was clear that the Yeses had it. It ended up not even being close, with 63% voting yes. It was also a high turnout year, on par with an even-numbered year and double the last off-year election. Way to go, St. Paul!

After the post-election high wore off, I attended a community visioning session that my county was leading on Thursday night. There were maybe 30 people there, and we broke into small groups based on topic. I picked the transportation, housing and environment group, which had about eight participants. It was a very constructive and respectful conversation without any one person dominating the conversation or being overly negative.

I was comfortable speaking up and sharing my thoughts about the need for higher density housing, community-minded thinking being more important than individual needs, and the importance of people who have the means doing whatever they can to help those who do not. Because if you’re just trying to pay rent and make sure your kids are fed, there is no way you can take on climate change.

Now that this election is over, I will continue to go to public meetings and participate in environmental advocacy. My local zero waste group, which is how I first got into this world, is hosting a happy hour in a couple weeks that I hope to attend. I was also asked by one of that group’s co-leaders if I’d want to join her for a meeting with the county about curbside organics. It feels good to be viewed as an environmental advocate both by peers and others in the community!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s challenge!

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