January 2019

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Winter up north. I find it to be both a time to enjoy the quiet and a test of my endurance. As an organizer, it can also be a hard time to move people into action, especially after coming off a very busy fall when our network of organizers, activists and candidates absolutely crushed it in our various projects and campaigns.

I had a conversation about this challenge with folks in Alger County Action in December. We knew people needed a time to rest and recharge over the winter holidays, but we also knew we needed to celebrate the successes of last fall and to keep up momentum and move people into action again in 2019.

The winter woods around my tiny house in Marquette.

The winter woods around my tiny house in Marquette.

Together, we developed a really cool strategy and timeline to do just that. We asked those who had stepped into leadership during their election work to write a short narrative about their experience and share why they’re excited about the future. Then the group assembled the narratives and emailed one out each week in January. The emails built upon each to honor and celebrate the work that was done last year, and to get others in ACA excited for the group’s first meeting of 2019. They named the series, “Election Reflections” and designed a beautiful graphic to go with it.

I have a few takeaways from this.

One, it was really inspiring to see leaders from this grassroots group see a need, set a goal, and come together to figure out how to meet it. It was clear during our planning conversation that everyone’s voice and ideas were valued and that the effort was collaborative. They identified the tasks that needed to get done, and took ownership over each one to make it happen.

Two, I think the way ACA communicated the successes and challenges of their election work was really beautiful. Personal stories have so much value and are more impactful than reading the stats and graphs from election results. I’m sure reading stories from those who got down and dirty in the work touched others in ACA in a powerful way so that they felt good about last year and motivated to continue rocking the boat in Alger County this year.

Below is a sample “Election Reflection” written by Susan Rans in Wetmore. Thanks to Alger County Action for letting me highlight your work, and for your grit and grace through last fall.

- Megan Collier
megan@wethepeoplemi.org


An election reflection, by Susan rans

A swell of emotions color my reflections on this election season…

 I am beset by “if onlys”: if only we had more time; if only we had clear understanding about the various offers of funding; if only a few more folks were involved.

I am saddened by the slim margin of 3 votes, confirmed by a recount, and I desperately want to find those three people by the next County election to put MJ on the Commission.

I am surprised to see the write-in winner get appointed to the open seat in Munising.   Joyfully surprised.  Hooray for Vicki!

I guess my crusty political cynicism is cracking somewhat.  It’s still there, but as Leonard Cohen sang, “there is a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in.”

BUT (there’s always a “but”) then I remember:  we started about a year ago with little idea what we were doing.  We live in a place that seems to have few contested elections for local seats.  The rules, as they were explained to us as we went along, seemed capricious at best. (How many times did the possibilities for getting Vicki on the ballot change?)  And the statewide environment was a shadow hanging over Alger County--Jack Bergman, Prop 2. Abdul/Whittmer, Schutte.  Yet, we fielded four strong candidates, won one on a re-election and one was appointed after a winning write-in campaign. We got out the vote for Prop 2 and won big, and learned a helluva lot. 

Not so bad for a scrappy bunch of activists!  Take a bow Alger County Action!

So now what?  My thoughts: we need to take a small break, then hit the ground running again.  We need to have another retreat-type event and make some decisions and act on them. Should we resolve the funding issues and become a PAC?  Should we send some folks to candidate school? Do we want to challenge the same seats in 2020?  Do the same candidates want to run? And we need to examine the roles our neighbors can play in ACA.  Some folks might not want to be really active, but might write a check, or sponsor a candidate house party.  Some feel better staying anonymous, while others are fine with person-ing the battlements.  Do we need officers after all?

And, most important to me, can we build on the information we gathered from the listening sessions to create a platform as well as to reach out to our neighbors on issues that face our community?

So, let’s rest on our laurels for a bit.  We worked hard and did well.  Then let’s pull up our britches and get back to work. 


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Art Reyes