If you were one of the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, I have a question for you: What are you doing today?
I attended the Women’s March in downtown LA, even though I can’t say I marched a whole lot. There were so many people packing the streets and sidewalks in the blocks around Pershing Square that we literally couldn’t move for hours. Yet throughout it all, people were polite and peaceful. And I felt like a movement was being born all around me.
There were so many wonderful and hopeful moments during the event and I know people will be sharing stories about it for years to come.
But a lot of people are asking the same question now: What’s next?
How can we translate the power of the march into something more than just a footnote in history? To me, the answer to that is simple, although it may not always be easy: get involved in local politics. You can help make change happen in Los Angeles. Read on for ideas about how…
Los Angeles has a system of Neighborhood Councils, 96 in all, that represent communities all over the City. The Councils act as Advisory Boards only, and the job is strictly volunteer, but they nonetheless have a profound influence on laws, rules and regulations. They were established in 2001 to make City Hall more easily accessible to citizens in all parts of our enormous City, and they are doing that job well.
I was elected to serve Mar Vista as part of my Neighborhood Council for a two-year term last June and I’m one of a team of 13. Although this isn’t an election year for the Councils, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved with yours right now.
Check out their calendar to find the meetings you’re most interested in and show up. When the full Board meets each month, the structure is very formal and while only Board members may vote, the public can make comments that will be entered into the record. But being there matters. Maybe the Council feels their community doesn’t care about a certain issue, and by seeing you there they will know how you feel. Plus you get a chance to meet the Board members and find out more about the committees they work on and how you can help work on the issues that matter to you.
And if you can’t make it to the meeting when they’re discussing something that you are passionate about, you can at least send an email. Emails received will be entered into the record as well, so take the time to let people know how you feel, in whatever way works for you.
Each Council has a number of Committees, and that’s the best way to get involved and make a direct impact on the issues that matter most to you. The Committee formats are much less formal, and anyone who attends can be a part of the conversation. In fact, it’s common practice for committees to have co-chairs who are not elected to the Board, so don’t let anything stop you from being a part of the Council process.
Let’s be realistic: not everyone has time to attend meetings on weeknights, especially when some of them can seem long, confusing, or even boring. But you can be involved without attending every meeting. The work the committees do goes on all the time, and volunteers will never be turned away. Can you help with social media? Let your council know. Can you help with an event they have planned? Let them know when and how you can help and I am sure that help will be welcomed.
Are they not even talking about what matters to you? Make it happen yourself. One of the coolest things is how the Councils are still in a process of creation. In my neighborhood, a group of people decided they wanted to see eco-conscious issues addressed by the council, so they formed the Mar Vista Green Committee. They got the Council to recognize and adopt them and it became one of the most well-organized and productive committees in our Council. They ran a Green Garden Showcase for seven years to highlight ways people could design sustainable yards during the drought, and they regularly issue policy motions about clean energy and water that are seen and heard by the LA City Council and the City departments in charge.
That didn’t exist until some people decided it needed to and took the action to create it. You can tell that same story about whatever matters to you. Take action!
Find your Neighborhood Council here: http://empowerla.org/councils/
Los Angeles Election Day March 7th
Did you know that Los Angeles is holding municipal elections on March 7th? And historically, the turnout for elections like this are dismally low. But we can change that. We can turn up and vote and show our elected officials we mean business.
Our Mayor is up for re-election, and so are half of our City Council members. (The Council Districts on the March ballot are the odd-numbered ones: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15.) And the LAUSD School Board also has members up for re-election, in case that’s more your cup of tea.
Do you know your Councilperson? Do you think he is doing a good job? Have you done your research on who’s running against him? Or those who want to unseat Mayor Garcetti? What about your School Board rep – are you happy with the job they’ve done or do you want to see some change? No time like the present.
And while we’re at it, did you know we only have ONE female City Council member? Out of the 15 districts in Los Angeles, Nury Martinez from CD 6 is the only woman. LA Marchers, are you going to settle for that?
If you think one candidate would be better than the others, get out there and work to make sure they are elected. Every campaign office needs volunteers right now, and people at every skill level will be welcomed. Typical tasks that need doing include phone banking, canvassing, helping stuff envelopes, make flyers for events, getting lawn signs ready, and helping spread the word on social media. Check with your chosen candidate to see what they specifically need.
Showing up matters
Find out when your candidates are having rallies or town hall meetings – or especially candidate forums – and be there. If your friends know you’re going, they might want to come with you. And when you’re there, ask questions. If we want our elected officials to be responsive to us, we have to make sure they know what we care about. Tell them. In person, or in emails, but don’t keep it to yourself.
Think about your influence
You all have people who look up to you and value your opinion, whether they will tell you that to your face or not. It’s important to realize that our actions can have bigger ramifications than we may even know. You may just inspire someone to consider your candidate just because you put up a lawn sign or posted on Facebook.
Bottom line: take action today.
Find out who represents your district on the LA City Council here. https://www.lacity.org/your-government/elected-officials/city-council/council-directory
Find out who your School Board Member is: http://achieve.lausd.net/board
Here’s a link to information about the March election in Los Angeles: http://clerk.lacity.org/los-angeles-city-clerk-election-division
Here’s a list of the candidates: http://clerk.cityofla.acsitefactory.com/sites/g/files/wph606/f/2017%20Certified%20List%20of%20Candidates.pdf
And of course we have ballot initiatives, too! Check them out in the very long Voter Information Pamphlet: http://clerk.cityofla.acsitefactory.com/sites/g/files/wph606/f/2017%20Primary%20VIP.pdf
I trust you are registered to vote, but just in case… http://registertovote.ca.gov/
Even Higher Office
Some people would rather work on issues at the State and National Level, and that’s great, too. Find out your State Assembly representatives and contact their offices. Attend their Town Hall meetings and find out what they stand for. The same goes for your Congressional reps and Senators. Follow them on social media, sign up for the email newsletters, let them know if you voted for them – and why. And find out what they’re working on now. Maybe you can lend a hand.
Find your California State representatives: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/
Meet your Congressperson: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Connect with your Senators: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
Whatever level of government you end up liking best, it doesn’t matter, because what does matter is that you get involved and make your voice heard.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com and the 1st Vice Chair of the Mar Vista Community Council. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at the Mar Vista Recreation Center at 7pm – and they welcome your attendance!