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A school bus.
Keeping this bus in service could be your responsibility!
It varies from state to state, county to county, but in my state, in my county, the filing period for local nonpartisan offices like the school board, the water board, sanitation board, etc for the November 5th election is open now and running through August 9.

Maybe you've never thought about this before. Maybe it's not your cup of tea. Or maybe there's a position that could really use your input.

On this site, we talk a lot about national politics. But our diarists also cover local issues, and we've seen how local races can affect us nationally. If your school board is terrible, what have you done about it? If your sanitation board raised the rates and cut services, did you investigate? Have you attended the meetings? Have you thought about recruiting better people to run? Have you thought about being that person yourself?

In some places, the race for any board is a serious campaign that requires significant funding to get off the ground at all. In some places, you can get yourself elected just by filing the paperwork and finding yourself unopposed. Some positions are full time and paid; others are completely volunteer. For volunteer offices, it may be completely free to run.

In California, if you run, you will need to take an oath to defend the constitution, sign a paper that attests your promise to run an open, clean, and fair campaign that is in the best interests of a democratic citizenry, and file a financial disclosure. (I know, it's hard to believe some of our elected officials signed some of those papers. Maybe they don't read them.)

So here's my to-do list suggestion for today: pick a board that interests you, follow its agenda and minutes, and take the time to attend a meeting. It's a small and interesting way to make a difference in your local community.

Maybe next year, you'll decide to file.

Originally posted to elfling's Magical Mystery Tour on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 01:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Every race deserves to be contested (21+ / 0-)

    Seriously.   Give some civic work a try if you can.  From the local school board to your water commission to city councils and state legislators, we need a generation worth of people willing to give some time to improve their communities.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 03:16:31 PM PDT

  •  I am just ending my first term on the school board (29+ / 0-)

    and filed yesterday to run for a second. It's been fun.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 03:53:19 PM PDT

    •  So great.. (14+ / 0-)

      That you speak from authority. Thanks for all you do for the site and as it turns out, America.

      Libertarianism is something that most people grow out of, not unlike, say, hay fever or asthma. Bob Johnson

      by randallt on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 07:43:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm half-way through my first term on the school (10+ / 0-)

      board. I hope to run for another term. It has been a supremely rewarding experience.  

      My election was a bit of an upset. The fellow I ran against was supposed to be a shoo-in. He is one of the local realtors and of course he already had signs and newspaper ads with his smiling face and name around town for his business.  

      The local Progressive community in my town sort of "adopted" me, however, and made sure they got the word out to vote for me. They also made sure I had key locations for my handful of lawn signs. Election night was such a thrill! I found myself in the lead with the first batch of results and never lost it.      

      I absolutely agree with your suggestion that more people should run for office. So many positions at the local level are unopposed or even unfilled. We are missing the opportunity to fundamentally change the system for the better when we don't take responsibility for local government. You can bet your piggybank that the local tea party in your area has candidates just waiting to fill a warm spot on a seat of a board or commission.  

      It really hasn't been that hard. I already had a passion for education, being a former teacher. I have a child attending school. The legal stuff can seem a bit intimidating, but mostly these boards and commissions just need people with common sense. I would rather a Progressive committed to the idea that government should work well be elected than a conservative who finds the very idea of government repellent.  

      Until we take responsibility for the local government that actually has an impact on people's daily lives, why should we expect the national politics to really change? What good does it do for us to win the Presidency if our local councils and boards sell us out to the highest corporate bidder? Or pander to the lowest impulses of the Morality Squad?              

      Metaphors be with you.

      by koosah on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:01:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And consider this (7+ / 0-)

    If you DON'T follow the wise advice given here, you're opening up the possibility that some Repugnikan nutbar will get elected unopposed. ESPECIALLY if we're talking about the school board; do you want creationists and abstinence-only cranks to get on the school board because you didn't take the trouble to run yourself?

  •  if not you, find a friend (8+ / 0-)

    A close personal friend of mine is running for office and I'm volunteering for his campaign.  It feels much different (in a good way) than the times I canvassed for other pols.

  •  Round here the cutoff is in May (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, nomandates, ColoTim, Oh Mary Oh

    And if you want to garner group endorsements, you'd better file a whole lot sooner.

    The primary is in early August, and if there are more than two candidates, you'll be in it...and there is only a couple of weeks past filing to get your entry into the Voters' Guide.

    I'm knee-deep into politics, but I've never even considered running for office. My life is full as it is. That's why I really admire those that do run for whatever position.

  •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

    I appreciate you bringing this to people's attention. I have served on our local park district for over 18 years. It hasn't always been easy but it has been worth it. In that time our Board has saved park land from developers, added park land, rebuilt infrastructure, restored creek reaches, fed hungry children, run fun recreation programs and events, kept the public and parks safe (we have our own peace officers), planted a ton of trees, and generally given the community great parks they enjoy and are proud of. We've done this while being a good steward of public money, treating our employees with respect, and making public policy ethically and transparently. Last year we were named the best small rec&park district in California. You can't make that kind of track record from the sidelines.

    In other nearby park Districts, the Tea Party mindset has resulted in closed swimming pools and poorly-maintained facilities in not-well-off neighborhoods and embellished facilities in monied neighborhoods. We bring in frisbee disc golfers; they chase them out.

    But, gotta hand it to them, the Tea Partiers and religious nuts in this area always run somebody for each and every available office. They have used those positions as training grounds and stepping stones for going on to screw up the Legislature, statewide offices and even Congress. Our local Dems, OTOH, have traditionally focused mainly on the Dem-on-Dem races inside the boundary of our region's big central city. Constituting the Downtown Power Elite, they have given away the store across most of our county and they don't seem to care.

    In the last few years I've made it a personal crusade to get more attention paid to the other city councils, independent special districts and school board seats in our county. It has been an uphill slog thanks to the Downtown Power Elite and their media toadies, a small group of big labor kingmakers, and a general malaise among Dem activists and voters. Recently, some of the local Dem clubs have been rising to the occasion and are now showing interest in growing a "farm team."  I'm grateful for your diary, as it can only help.

    If you don't play, you can't win. Every race does deserve to be contested. I hope this issue will gain some traction here @ dKos.    

    Energy efficiency 1st in the loading order

    by Left Foot Forward on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:48:24 PM PDT

    •  Hooray, Left Foot Forward! My little town needs (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, elfling, KenBee

      someone like you to establish a Parks and Rec district where I live. We currently don't have one and those functions are being done by a group of separate, uncoordinated entities (including the school district, which can't afford anything at this time). Or they aren't being done at all.  

      What an inspiring story. You highlight one of the "dangers," though. Once you begin doing this sort of civic volunteering, it can become "habit-forming" for years to come.  LOL.  

      Metaphors be with you.

      by koosah on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 05:34:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here is our challenge (0+ / 0-)

    A quote from Chris Hayes, "Twilight of the Elites:

    We ask the education system to expiate the sins of the rest of society & then condemn it as hopelessly broken when it doesn't prove up to the task.

  •  The 4 "C's" for candidates (0+ / 0-)

    We are trying to implement Common Core for our national agenda so put on your thinking caps.
       Creativity
       Critical thinking
       Communication
       Collaboration

  •  California School Board Association (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah

    I started my term being skeptical  of their agenda but I follow their newsletters with interest now.

    What do you think, elfling?

  •  Rx for California (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, elfling

    Education needs the revenue lost to Prop 13.

    Rural districts are asked to serve as the safety net for their communities and board members are forced to make harsh decisions.  Not fun!

    A couple quotes from CSBA:

    "Children learn when supported with high expectation, quality teaching & deep engagement..."/

    "High expectations become a punitive factor if combined with low resources,  low opportunities & lack of support."

    •  Your quotes describe the system up here in Oregon (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pacplate, elfling, KenBee, J Orygun

      as well. We followed California into the folly of "Property Tax Relief" with our Measure 5. I serve in a rural district and the cuts have been brutal in this economy. Fortunately, we have a slim Democratic majority in our state legislature. For the first time in 10 years? More? the legislature put funding education first on the budget agenda, instead of leaving it till last and assigning it the leftover dregs. We have a funding level that at least allows most districts to maintain this next year.  

      For the first time in his life, my 10-year-old son will have a full school calendar year, with no days cut for budget shortfalls. He has had 5 consecutive short years. He has lost more than a month of school compared to kids who graduated 5 years ago. Yet standards and expectations continue to be raised...      

      Metaphors be with you.

      by koosah on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 09:07:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am also in a rural district (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koosah, KenBee

      Our needs and realities are rather different from that of LAUSD, which dominates state education policy.

      Our district was 'fortunate' to have a crisis of declining enrollment before the big budget nightmares, so many hard decisions had already been made. The district was also able to take advantage of retirements.

      This year will be the first year since I've been on the Board where the state isn't threatening us with cuts on order 10% in January, you know, after the school year has already started and the money is already spent and allocated. It has been a pleasure to be able to have meetings with the staff about where we will spend new funds instead of only about the least disasterous way to make cuts.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 09:54:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obama's recent reminder (0+ / 0-)

    "If you think education is too expensive, you should see how much ignorance costs."

  •  smooches for this... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pacplate, elfling, koosah, BentLiberal

    because if we're going to improve things, this is where it happens.

    think about it: most police, prisons, education... all controlled state/regional/town wide.

    the environmental agency of a state can't have weaker standards than federal stds, but it can have stricter stds

    there are clever people out there using eminent domain to take back foreclosed houses and returning them to homeowners... there are states, including Montana, to nullify NDAA.

    all the blah blah blah by national politicians and the energy wasted and the time and the issues and the narrative... i could scream.

    but we're where we are. and your diary is a fabulous start.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

    by pfiore8 on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 09:16:43 AM PDT

  •  if you care about climate: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Left Foot Forward, pfiore8, GwenM

    Run for any utility board position available, then vote for more sunshine.

    Run for a city/neighborhood planning position, then vote for bike lanes and public transit.

    Run for a parks and rec board, then vote for open space.

    Run for a water board, because big power plants are thirsty.

    Run for a school board, and make sure science is taught accurately.

    Run for a library board, just because.

  •  YES! (0+ / 0-)

    When you run for local office, you are speaking with your neighbors about the subjects that matter to you. You can change minds,  and enlighten folks to issues that directly affect them.

    Even in districts that are very conservative it's important to challenge every seat.  The dialogue can't happen if no one is there to speak up for progressive ideas.

    It's not as tough as you might think.  Contact your local party organization and ask for help.  In non-partisan races, folks who understand the system and how to generate votes can be a big help.  The Republicans are masters at filling these seats, and then moving up into the partisan races for higher office.

    My experience is this: If you are willing to run and are serious about your message, there will be people who want to help you.  Winning is great, but spreading the progressive message is the most important thing.

    Make your community better by investing yourself directly in it.

    Imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. John Lennon

    by GwenM on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:35:25 AM PDT

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