Better Budget Bash 2017

On Sunday, June 25th of 2017 We will took time to recognize each other for our dramatically increased advocacy efforts in the past year.  We thanked all of those who took the time to communicate with our Oklahoma state legislators this year and the impact we had on this past legislative session. 

Our Together Oklahoma Advocates gathered in OKC, Tulsa, Lawton, and Norman and for the first time we used Zoom to simultaneously project video from all 4 locations on a screen where everyone could see it. We persevered through some minor technical glitches and everyone seemed to enjoy it so much that we definitely plan to use that tool again soon! 

Here is what was presented:

Welcome!

We began with a welcome recognizing members gathered in OKC, Tulsa, Lawton, and Norman.

Special Toast

  • Near and far, ancestors and descendants, we raise a cup and give gratitude for all that sustains us and everyone and everything who has contributed to making our homes better.  To the sacrifices in the past, to those who took the time to chip in, to our future selves who will continue to strive we come together to say Thank you!

Year in Review

  • Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins reminded us that there were many wins this session as we stopped bad bills and put new revenue options on the table.  There is reason to be optimistic because legislators have finally realized that we have a revenue problem and not a spending problem.

Toast

  • To the leaders who have examined the policies, researched the options, crafted solutions, shared information, shepherded the bills to becoming law.  Both those elected like our legislators, and non-elected like their legislative staff, and our staff including policy analysts, interns, and lobbyists.  Thank you

All-Star Advocate Awards

  • The roles and responsibilities of constituents are not well enough defined by our society but these 5 advocates began shaping what that can mean through their words, deeds, and their willingness to care.  
  • To Merleyn Bell who wholeheartedly adopted our vision of committed volunteer Communications Chair, contacting helpers, crafting plans, designing products, and hosting the Better Budget Bootcamp. To Merleyn!
  • To Nik Majdan who brought his technical skills and knowledge to the Together Oklahoma wiki project to make this a great tool for us to keep collective notes about each legislator and their district.
  • To Emma Thadani who not only helped craft plans for events,brought together members who wanted to help, and acted as liaison to other organizations, but who also provided translation services for one of our joint events with our partners, giving us inspiration for the future of a multilingual Oklahoma advocacy effort. To Emma!
  • To Debbie Hill who could have stayed home relaxing after retiring from years of teaching science to high school students but who instead made it her mission to talk to all the legislators, build relationships with them, gain their trust and even speak before their committee meetings, and then who in May became our most trusted and dependable advocate at the Capitol, taking new advocates with her and showing them the ropes. To Debbie!
  • Finally to Shay White who saw the vision years ago, who started reading everything that Together Oklahoma and OK Policy put out, and who came to our offices after a week of providing counseling to troubled elementary school children, just to offer her services to the cause, to take time to come to event after event to do whatever she could do to help, who makes everyone feel so welcomed and heard, and who has made each person who meets her laugh with her good humor and wisdom.  And who is therefore our All Star Advocate of the Year.  To Shay!

Send off with a Toast

  • For our final toast I would like to bring us back to Earth.  We see how our overcrowded prisons are ruining the lives of those who are supposed to be rehabilitated and those who are rehabilitating them, we see that our teachers are giving up and leaving, that our elders, children, and those with disabilities are being abandoned.  Are we okay with that?  NO!
  • We see that some big companies over promise and under deliver, saying that we should give them all the breaks and tighten our own belts.  We see those who manipulate the systems for their own wealth and profits while our hospitals, health departments, state agencies, and schools lay off vital employees and close their doors.  Are we okay with that?  NO!
  • We see that while some legislators try their very best to do something about all of these challenges, others hide behind excuses, literally hide from their own constituents,  and hide the truth that we have real options, that we could take, to save our state.  They are hiding the light. Are we okay with that?  NO!
  • We are not okay okay with that.  We are here today on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, when we could be home relaxing because we are not okay with that.  We want everybody to take responsibility for the roles they have take on. We have our roles as constituents because we have chosen to live in this society and we are taking that responsibility seriously.  Some of us have our roles as people working for policy organizations, state agencies, non-profits, schools, health care workers and more, and we plan to fulfill those responsibilities.  Some of those among us are running for office right now and some will in the future.  Many more will take on roles in helping with campaigns both for elected leaders and campaigns of information like the Save Our State campaign. We expect our legislators to honor the responsibilities of the offices they have taken on.  We need them to work on making themselves transparent and accessible to us!  They have a responsibility to view our state budget as a moral document and to participate in all the ways they can to make it the best budget they can craft.  Am I right?  YES!
  • To coming Together, Oklahoma.
  • Get together, get curious, get creative, take notes, and let us know what you come up with.  We are in this together and I am proud to be here with all of you!

After the webinar we met with our smaller groups at each of the 4 locations to discuss next steps and answer these questions:

  • How are we going to build relationships with our fellow constituents?
  • How are we going to build relationships with our legislators?

Each chapter had their own answer to these questions.  I’ll be gathering those answers in the coming week and our leadership team will be sharing our vision for the coming months.