Do actions speak louder than words?

by | March 21st, 2017

I’m fed up with the bad budget news coming from our state legislature! Are you with me?

I’m going to 23rd and Lincoln tomorrow for Let’s Fix This Capitol Day (Mar 22th)! (if you aren’t on Facebook, you can find the event at this link)  I hope to see many of you there in person and/or following along online.  I’ll post my schedule below and you can track me and your fellow advocates in the capitol_updates channel in TOK Slack.

But before we talk more about that I have a serious question to ask.  How do you evaluate your legislators?  As a team manager I’ve learned that evaluations are key to good management. Occasionally ​I’ve hired ​some kind, funny, sympathetic characters who, when it came down to it, didn’t get the job done.

It is extremely important that we don’t make the mistake of thinking that a legislator being friendly means that they are doing their whole job well.  I think being nice to your constituents is ESSENTIAL but how nice is it if they are kind to us in person and they cut funding to all we hold dear when our backs are turned?  There is only one way to know what kind of legislator you are working with and that is to track their actions.  

Keeping track of the bills your legislator writes and how they vote isn’t all that fun if you do it all alone.  That’s why I’ll remind you again that we are working as state legislative district teams. Let’s work together to simplify tracking bills and votes.  We are in this together and I hope we’ll be together at the Capitol tomorrow or in Slack!

The plan for TOK members at the Capitol:

We have less than 10 weeks to get our legislators to look at these revenue options and keep from digging us deeper into this big ol’ budget hole! TOK is partnering with Let’s Fix This and other groups instead of planning our own Capitol days because it is a better use of everyone’s resources and it is also more fun!  If you can’t be there during the day, join us for the Capitol Crawl Wednesday evening or at least follow along on the Together Oklahoma Facebook Page and @togetherok twitter and with the hash tag #LetsFixThisOK

Our three goals for the day (From the Capitol or where ever you are) :

  1. Ask legislators what they plan to do about the budget hole and what they think of the revenue options we are suggesting. 
  2. Report legislators’ answers back to our fellow constituents via Together Oklahoma Slack.
  3. Support each other as we take action TOGETHER!

Here is my schedule for tomorrow:

  • 9:00 am – Joining advocates in the Blue Room for a little Let’s Fix This orientation.
  • 10:00 am – Assisting advocates in talking to their legislators and talking to some legislators myself
  • 11:00 am – Meeting up at the Capitol Visitors Center with some TOK Members who are just arriving at the Capitol.
  • 12:00 pm – If the weather is nice I’ll be taking my lunch outside for a picnic on the Capitol lawn. TOK members are welcome to bring their lunch and join me. Watch the hash tag #LetsFixThisOK on social media to see where we end up sitting down to eat or to let other folks know where they can find you to share a meal.
  • 1:30 am – Meeting up at the Capitol Visitors Center with some TOK Members who are just arriving at the Capitol to do a little orientation before folks go visit their legislators.
  • 6:00 pm – Joining Let’s Fix This folks on the Capitol Crawl.

You can find me at any of these spots or watch for my online updates. If you are as fed up as I am, let’s set a good example for our legislators and fellow Oklahomans.  Truly your actions speak louder than your words!

KJ

 

 

Legislators who won’t listen to you?

by | March 16th, 2017

 

Together Oklahoma is non-partisan. That means we want ALL legislators to hear from their own constituents right away! We bring Oklahomans together to talk about how a budget is a moral document and how we want our state budget to reflect our values. That means we need you! We have less than 11 weeks to convince our state legislators to pass a better budget instead of another round of steep cuts to public schools, health departments, state parks, and more. 

While some of you are fortunate to have legislators who host regular town halls and constituent meetings, even a few who have legislators who send surveys to find out your opinions on bills, several of you have told me that you can’t seem to get a response OR you get a response but your legislators always disagree with you.

If you are in that situation, it is important to know why and what you can do about it.  The best thing for you to do is pretty clear cut and easy to understand:  Focus on your fellow constituents right away!  

Why do you need to engage with your district teams? How should you engage with your fellow constituents?  I’ll cover that and more below.

Engaging with your fellow constituents is essential because your legislators don’t answer to only you.  There are lots of advocacy tasks you can do on your own, but if you don’t engage with your fellow constituents at all, you are unwisely keeping yourself ignorant about information you need to know.

  • Know who your two state legislators are, you can find them here.
  • Know you have TWO district teams, one for State Senate and one for State House of Representatives, and they are not going to be exactly the same group of constituents because the district boundaries aren’t the same.  
  • Once you fill out the Together Oklahoma membership form, I will email you a list of TOK members in your district.  I don’t give out member contact information but you can access your district team in Slack. There is a channel in Slack for each of your Oklahoma State Legislative Districts. More about what Slack is and how we use it HERE.
  • I highly suggest you use those district member lists and Slack channels to do all of these things:
    1. Share the work of all of these tasks so no one is overwhelmed with too many citizen responsibilities!
    2. Track who is talking to your legislator and what they are learning from those communications using a spreadsheet or whatever means works for y’all.
    3. Share what you know about your legislator and their positions on upcoming bills. 
    4. Make note of which bills your legislator has sponsored. Your district team can request that list from TOK staff on Slack or via email at research@togetherok.org
    5. Keep track of how your legislator votes on bills that matter to you. They are people and just like the rest of us, their actions speak louder than words.
    6. Work together to power map your legislator, and find more about how to do that HERE.
    7. Plan to carpool together to the Capitol OR set up a constituent meeting with your legislator at home in your district.  Remember, face-to-face communications are most impactful!
    8. Bring your fellow constituents into your district teams.  Citizen power is stronger in larger numbers!
    9. Resist the temptation to make these partisan district teams.  There is plenty of Democrat and Republican organization happening elsewhere.  Together Oklahoma is a place to put those distinctions aside and find the points where we can all come together. 
    10. Connect with your local chapter of Together Oklahoma or consider starting one if you aren’t near Tulsa, Norman, or OKC.  HERE are the guidelines for starting a TOK chapter.
  • There is so much more you and your district team can do but that is plenty to get you going!

If you still aren’t convinced that you should connect with your district team, here is more about why I think you should:

  • You and your fellow district members are going to have different communication styles and personal traits.  Some legislators will listen better to you and some will only hear people who aren’t like you.  Legislators are just human beings and we are all biased to some extent.
  • Doing all ten of the things I suggested above takes time and none of us has all the time in the world.  Split up the work and keep a constant stream of communication flowing to and from your legislator. You and your district team can strategically engage with your legislator over time in a way that is much more meaningful and persuasive than some one day assault with a rally or a single person going up to the Capitol.
  • Other members of your district have some of the same concerns you do and some have concerns that are different.  You will be better able to persuade our leaders and our society to do things that are good if you know what’s going on with the other people around you.
  • Finally, we are in a time of absurdly harsh partisanship that ignores the reality that we are all in this life together! We all want good schools for our children, access to great jobs, clean, safe, and healthy communities and more.  There is so much more that unites us than what divides us and frankly, I think our elected leaders need YOU to set an example of how to work together for the common good, don’t you?

Let’s do this!  Let’s do it now!  If you aren’t connected to your district team through Together Oklahoma all you need to do is fill out this membership form and we’ll get you connected. You’ll receive an email invitation to Slack and a list of people who are working with the same legislators who represent you.  You can follow these guidelines to use Slack to your optimal advantage. How much or how little you collaborate with your teams is up to you but you can’t escape the fact that you are in two state legislative districts with other Oklahomans.  I hope you will get to know them and that they will get to know you!

Are you planning to join us at the Capitol on March 22nd for the Let’s Fix This Day at the Capito from 9am-4pm? We need your legislators to see you there so please join us or at least make sure someone from your district team will be there to represent you and your fellow constituents.  Time is running out and we need all hands on deck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power Mapping For Change

by | March 14th, 2017

As good advocates for change, we have many tools at our disposal. One important tool is called a power map. A power map helps us identify decision-makers and understand all the forces acting on them — like constituents; personal and professional relationships; special interest groups; other advocacy organizations; and political party leaders; among others.

This web of influence is often difficult for the average citizen to understand. The lines of influence between these players are always evolving, and the reasons behind a legislator’s position on any given subject may not be — probably won’t be — based on a purely rational assessment of the issue’s pros and cons. For us to have a chance of nudging our legislators in the right direction, we have to understand the forces at play.

There are a few simple steps to creating an effective power map:

  • Determine your goal or policy objective.
  • Identify the right target for your efforts.
  • Brainstorm the people and institutions that know and interact with your target.
  • Determine the nature of the relationship between your target and the people who influence them.
  • Make a plan of action.
  • What’s Your Goal?

Before starting any campaign, your team must determine what success looks like. What is your ultimate goal? At this stage, your team should stay focused on identifying the problem, not specific solutions. For example, if you and your team are worried about a proposed tax cut and the effect it might have on vital services, you may have a pretty good idea of what your goal is already. You probably want the legislature to see the light and vote against the tax cut. However, an important aspect of determining your goal is to not jump to conclusions about what the best solution might be. There may be a dozen different ways to accomplish the goal of funding services. Squabbling over the details early on is a great way to blunt the power of your team, because you end up directing your energies against each other instead of the real decision-makers.

  • Who Can Make It Happen?

            Next you need to identify who the real decision makers are. Often this will be a legislator, a city councilor, or some other elected official, but your target may be any individual or group that has the power to effect change in the policy. Depending on what your specific goal is, the focus of your efforts could be a prominent citizen, a journalist, or the head of a state agency or private institution. For larger and more complicated goals, consider whether success depends on targeting multiple individuals or even an entire institution. Picking the right target is often a simple task, but sometimes a little research is needed to find out who the correct target should be. As you build your power map, you may discover that the individuals you thought were in charge aren’t. Like the Wizard of Oz, there might be a someone you don’t expect who is really pulling the strings. When this happens, keep your map flexible, add the true decision maker to your power map, and refocus your efforts on the “man behind the curtain.”

  • Brainstorm as a group

As a group activity, power mapping is a great way to build consensus and communicate a plan of action to your team. It helps focus your efforts, and it can shift meetings from complaining about a problem into making a productive plan of action.

The most crucial skill when power mapping in a group is to understand the process of brainstorming. Brainstorming is about getting ideas out and recorded. It is not about the quality of the ideas. It’s not the time to criticize, make negative comments or stifle input. You want every team member contributing. Using sticky notes to record every idea (one note = one idea), create a comprehensive list of influences on the target.

Let’s say your team goal is to get your state senator to vote against an upcoming tax cut. The state senator is your target. Now is the time for you and your team to brainstorm all the forces acting on the senator. Find out everything you can about him and consider what people and institutions are connected to him. These may include:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Current and former colleagues in school, business, sports, or the military
  • Companies the senator may have done business with or worked for
  • Major employers in the state and especially in the senator’s district
  • Media (including newspapers, television and web outlets, whether or not they tend to favor or criticize your target)
  • Social media (not just the platform, i.e. Facebook or Twitter, but also the individual social media actors that the senator has historically responded to)
  • Community groups and activists
  • Nonprofits and charities
  • Churches and other religious organizations
  • The senator’s political party and important party officials
  • Map the relationships

Armed with this list of actors, you can begin to create a power map diagram. If you have a white board, now is the time to use it! Begin by placing the target in the center of your diagram and arrange your sticky notes around the target. Draw lines between the target and the actors on your sticky notes. These lines indicate that the actor has influence over the target. We call them relational lines of power. On the line, you can briefly describe the type of relationship between the actor and the target (see Diagram 1).

Diagram 1

You may notice right away that the various actors may have connections to each other, not just to the target. Draw relational lines of power between the various actors as well as to the target. Some actors will have many connections to both the target and other actors. These nodes of power are important influencers of both the target and other influencers. Take note of who they are.

  • Create a Plan of Action

Your diagram should look something like Diagram 2, a messy web of interconnected nodes and relational lines of power. Every line coming from your target leads to an individual or group that has some measure of influence over the target. Every line leading to your target is a string that you can pluck.

Diagram 2

You can use your power map to identify who you should contact, who should get to know you, and who you need to get on your side. Ideally, mapping the relationships will turn up someone connected to your target who is also connected with you or your allies. Maybe you’re not ready to directly persuade your target, but you are ready to reach out to this person or group connected to him. For the most important campaigns, this may be a multi-step process where you have to start with someone well removed from the ultimate decision-maker. But if you can convince all your target’s friends, family and business associates, getting your target to come around to your point of view is much easier.

The why and how of legislative district teams.

by | March 13th, 2017

Why do you need to engage with your district team? How should you engage with your fellow constituents?  I’ll cover that and more and I hope you’ll join your fellow Together Oklahoma members in Slack to talk about this even more.

Engaging with your fellow constituents is essential because your legislators don’t answer to only you.  There are lots of advocacy tasks you can do on your own, but if you don’t engage with your fellow constituents at all, you are unwisely keeping yourself uninformed about information you need to know.

  • Know who your two state legislators are, you can find them here.
  • Know you have TWO district teams, one for State Senate and one for State House of Representatives, and they are not going to be exactly the same because the district boundaries aren’t the same.  
  • Once you fill out the Together Oklahoma membership form, I will email you a list of TOK members in your district.  I don’t give out member contact information but you can access your district team in Slack. There is a channel in Slack for each of your Oklahoma State Legislative Districts.
  • I highly suggest you use those district member lists and channels to do all of these things:
  1. Share the work of all of these tasks so no one is overwhelmed with too many citizen responsibilities!
  2. Track who is talking to your legislator and what they are learning from those communications using the spreadsheet that is in your Slack channel or whatever means works for y’all.
  3. Share what you know about your legislator and that legislator’s positions on upcoming bills. 
  4. Make note of what bills your legislator has sponsored. I can get you a list if you request it.
  5. Keep track of how your legislator votes on bills that matter to you.
  6. Work together to power map your legislator, and find more about how to do that HERE.
  7. Plan to carpool together to the Capitol OR set up a constituent meeting with your legislator at home in your district.  Remember, face-to-face communications are most impactful!
  8. Bring your fellow constituents into your district teams.  Citizen power is stronger in larger numbers!
  9. Resist the temptation to make these partisan district teams.  There is plenty of Democrat and Republican organization happening elsewhere.  Together Oklahoma is a place to put those distinctions aside and find the points where we can all come together. 
  10. Connect with your local chapter of Together Oklahoma or consider starting one if you aren’t near Tulsa, Norman, or OKC.  HERE are the guidelines for starting a TOK chapter.
  • There is so much more you and your district team can do but that is plenty to get you going!

If you still aren’t convinced that you should connect with your district team, here is more about why I think you should:

  • You and your fellow district members are going to have different communication styles and personal traits.  Some legislators will listen better to you and some will only hear people who aren’t like you.  Legislators are just human beings and we are all biased to some extent.
  • Doing all ten of the things I suggested above takes time and none of us has all the time in the world.  Split up the work and keep a constant stream of communication flowing to and from your legislator. You and your district team can strategically engage with your legislator over time in a way that is much more meaningful and persuasive than some one day assault with a rally or a single person going up to the Capitol.
  • Other members of your district have some of the same concerns you do and some have concerns that are different.  You will be better able to persuade our leaders and our society to do things that are good if you know what’s going on with the other people around you.
  • Finally, we are in a time of absurdly harsh partisanship that ignores the reality that we are all in this life together! We all want good schools for our children, access to great jobs, clean, safe, and healthy communities and more.  There is so much more that unites us than what divides us and frankly, I think our elected leaders need YOU to set an example of how to work together for the common good, don’t you?

Let’s do this!  Let’s do it now!  If you aren’t connected to your district team through Together Oklahoma all you need to do is fill out this membership form and we’ll get you connected. You’ll receive an email invitation to Slack and a list of people who are working with the same legislators who represent you.  You can follow these guidelines to use Slack to your optimal advantage. How much or how little you collaborate with your teams is up to you but you can’t escape the fact that you are in two state legislative districts with other Oklahomans.  I hope you will get to know them and that they will get to know you!

 

 

Revenue Solutions for the Big ol’ Hole!

by | March 7th, 2017

Like Will Rogers said “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!”.  Well, we are in a big ol’ hole because the state budget has been cut almost 15 percent over the past decade when adjusted for inflation — or more than $1.1 billion per year. Many agencies now receive 20 to 40 percent less than prior to the Great Recession. How about we stop digging and build a ladder?

Below are seven rungs that could fit on that ladder. Want more info? Download OK Policy’s revenue options factsheet.

  1. Reduce tax breaks for the oil and gas industry
  2. Assess a high-income surcharge.
  3. Increase the cigarette tax.
  4. End the capital gains exemption. 
  5. Adopt combined corporate reporting.
  6. Increase the fuel tax.
  7. Improve collection of Internet sales taxes.

Recurring Revenue Options:

  1. Reduce tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Oil and Gas has been an important part of our economy and will continue to be so for some time. So we should ask them to pay their fair share of taxes! Oklahoma traditionally has taxed oil and gas production at 7 percent with various exceptions. But in 2014, the Legislature voted to tax almost all production at 2 percent for 36 months. That is well below the tax rates in other energy-producing states. It doesn’t make sense, and we can’t afford it! This tax break is expected to cost the state $370 million in FY 2018. Instead, the oil and gas gross production tax rate on new production could be raised to 4 percent when prices are low and back to 7 percent when prices are higher. This would have a limited impact while the industry is down, but it would be a serious revenue increase over time [REVENUE: ~$40M].
  2. Assess a high-income surcharge. Don’t let anyone convince you that our budget hole is only about the cost of oil. Oklahoma has cut the top income rate from 6.65 percent to 5 percent since 2004. These cuts have contributed to chronic budget shortfalls by reducing annual revenue by over $1 billion. We can’t afford that! A large majority of the benefit has gone to the highest-income households. Oklahoma could assess a surcharge of 6 percent on income over $200,000 ($100,000 for single individuals) and 7 percent on income over $400,000 ($200,000 for singles). This would be a great way to improve our home state and only 3 percent of households would be affected by the surcharge. Even after this change, all households would still be paying less income taxes than before our legislators passed these recent tax cuts [REVENUE: $204M].
  3. Increase the cigarette tax. I know some folks don’t like this because it is regressive, but you know what is more regressive? Closing rural hospitals, cutting programs at DHS, and making it harder for people to get the care they need, that’s what. Last session legislators came close to raising the tax on cigarettes to $2.53 from $1.03 per package. This option is on the table again. It is ON THE TABLE, so let’s not let the “perfect get in the way of the good.” Revenue from a cigarette tax increase could be dedicated for health care services to reverse past cuts and avert further ones, and it will make people healthier to boot!  [REVENUE: $258M, according to Gov. Fallin’s FY ‘18 budget proposal].
  4. End the capital gains exemption.  Oklahoma allows a 100 percent income tax deduction on capital gains from the sale of property located in Oklahoma or the sale of stock of a company headquartered in Oklahoma. The tax break, which primarily benefits taxpayers making over $1 million annually, is of questionable economic benefit and could also violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Do we really need to have more ways that we may be violating the Constitution in this state? I don’t know about y’all, but I am sick of making national headlines for the wrong reasons. [REVENUE: $105M]
  5. Adopt combined corporate reporting. Hey there! Do you like loopholes that allow some folks to skip paying their fair share?  Yeah, me neither. Some multi-state corporations shift income to out-of-state subsidiaries to escape state tax liability. We don’t have to do it this way. Most states with a corporate income tax have adopted an effective and well-established reform known as combined corporate reporting that halts this tax avoidance strategy and ensures that multi-state corporations pay their fair share of taxes, just like local businesses.  Let’s level the playing field so all businesses can have a framework that allows them to be the best corporate citizens they can be. [REVENUE: ~ $20M – $60M]
  6. Increase the fuel tax. Oklahoma has among the LOWEST fuel taxes in the nation (17¢ per gallon for gas and 14¢ per gallon for diesel), because we’ve just kinda skipped over adjusting it since 1987. Some of y’all reading this weren’t even born then!  Since that time the fuel tax has lost nearly half its value to inflation. Fuel tax increases could be pegged to be in effect only when gas prices are low. This would offset the loss in gross production taxes that Oklahoma experiences during times of low oil and gas prices. Nifty, right? [REVENUE: $135M for 5¢ increase of gasoline and diesel tax; $220M for Gov. Fallin’s recommendation to increase both gas and diesel tax to 24¢ per gallon].
  7. Improve collection of Internet sales taxes. One of the BIG reasons we’ve had so many folks working on getting Oklahomans to “Buy Local” is because states are hampered from collecting taxes on sales from retailers that lack a physical presence in their state – even though the tax is owed. Internet sales don’t have to hurt our mom-and-pop main-street shops but they are! Last year lawmakers passed a bill (HB 2531) that included a broader definition of who maintains a place of business in the state and also required remote retailers to send customers an annual statement listing their purchase. Oklahoma could now follow the lead of Colorado and Louisiana by also requiring remote retailers to notify the Tax Commission of their customers’ aggregate sales, which would boost compliance. [REVENUE: Unknown]

You know it and I know it. Oklahoma is once again facing a massive budget shortfall (aka the big ol’ hole). According to preliminary estimates, lawmakers will have about $740 million less for next year’s budget than what they appropriated this year. It doesn’t have to be that way but this is what they’ve set in motion so far. The state budget has already been cut almost 15 percent over the past decade when adjusted for inflation — for a total spending reduction of more than $1.1 billion per year. Many agencies now receive 20 to 40 percent less than prior to the Great Recession. Don’t let anyone seduce you with their siren song about wasteful government.  If they come a crooning, hit pause and ask them “Would you rather we quit having our Health Departments inspect restaurants for rats or just let all those school-less kiddos loose in the Capitol for a little up-close and personal Civics 101 ? “

The state needs more revenue! We’ve got to avoid more devastating cuts, to ensure fair pay for our teachers and state employees, to close gaps in mental health and substance abuse treatment, and to address critical staffing shortages in our corrections facilities, and the list of urgent needs goes on and on. As Oklahoma’s Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger has said, “We are not cutting our way out of this budget hole. We have to have a serious conversation about revenue in this state.” He is right about that and there NO reason to expect that your legislators will know that unless you and your fellow constituents confirm that they’ve heard about these options loud and clear!

Four things you can do about it:

  1. Contact your two legislators about the revenue options and get other folks to join you!
  2. Share this TOK Blog Post about the revenues. 
  3. Join the Together Oklahoma teams that are working on events, communications, outreach, and research about the revenues by filling out this little membership form
  4. Check our calendar of community events, attend and event, and talk about the revenues!

Now, you have in hand your broad menu of revenue options that are worth considering to ensure a better budget and a stronger economy that works for all! I’ve offered 4 things you can do and explained just how to get your legislators attention and who is on your team six ways from Sunday so please check out the Advocacy Tipsheets if you need a refresher.  Every single person in this state is counting on all of the rest of us to do the right thing.  Are you mad about this? GOOD. Set a good example and get out there spread the word!  

To Be Successful We Need To Be Strategic

by | March 2nd, 2017

Photo by Bil Kleb

I see you all out there, feeling feisty about getting our state legislators to do right by Oklahoma and pass a better budget this year!  I’m glad more Oklahomans are doing all you can do to help make the public investments that matter to us all. In fact, I’ve never seen as much citizen advocate action as we have this session, but let’s remember that to be successful we need to be strategic and we need a team. Let’s not try to go it alone.

If this a representative democracy, who is being represented? No state House Representative or state Senator is representing just you, so when you set out to do legislative advocacy, don’t go it alone.  You’ve been contacting your legislators about our weekly advocacy alerts and the suggested revenue options but legislators will respond differently to a whole group of constituents than they will to just you.

That is why I’m using Together Oklahoma to reach out to you in several different team-oriented ways.  

Individual TOK members are:

  • Receiving and acting upon weekly updates on Thursdays, like this one, plus Action Alerts on Mondays. You can see those anytime HERE on the togetherok.org website.
  • Participating in TOK Chapters or building new chapters. There are TOK Chapters where members are working together to host events, carpools to the Capitol, small group meetings with legislators, and more.  Our active chapters are TOK OKC, TOK Tulsa, and TOK Norman, but there are more than enough people to start TOK Chapters all over the state. See how to start a chapter HERE.
  • Connecting with fellow constituents to strategically impact the two legislators who represent you. You have both the right and the responsibility to find the best ways to engage with the two state legislators who represent you. This week members of Together Oklahoma, who have filled out our membership form, and joined Slack, have been added to two channels corresponding to each of their own two state legislative districts. If you haven’t filled out a membership form, you can do so now. You can use these district connections to plan Town Hall Meetings to talk with your legislator about ways to fix the state budget. Even if you don’t like your legislators, they still represent you ,so please let me help you connect with your district teams. I went into more detail about this last week in Your Team and Your Quest.

Beyond your individual relationships with your legislators, participating in your local chapter, creating a new chapter, and engaging with your fellow constituents in your two district groups, you can also join the Together Oklahoma committees.

  • We have members all over the state who are planing creative communications, hosting events, researching legislators and districts, and doing outreach efforts to make these resources available to all Oklahomans. To join one of these committees fill out the membership form or, if you have already filled it out, and you haven’t heard from a committee chair, email us at intern@togetherok.org

There is no shortage of meaningful things you can do!  If you still don’t see what you are looking for in the options above, let me know what you’d like to do and I’ll see how I can support you. You can find us on slack or at info@togetherok.org.

Upcoming Events

  • TOK Norman Coffee Chat with Legislators
    • Friday, March 10th, 9am-11am at The Screen Door Coffee and Entertainment, West Main Street, Norman, OK
    • Senator Sparks and Representatives Griffith and Virgin will be joining members of Together Oklahoma in conversation about the budget hole, what is being done, and what we can do, as well as answering other constituent questions. Representative Martin said he will try to attend as well if he is able.
  • Let’s Fix This Capitol Day (Mar 15th)
    • Wednesday, March 15 at 9 AM – 12 PM at the Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
    • The purpose of the Let’s Fix This Capitol Days is to get regular people to go to the state Capitol and talk to their legislators about whatever issues are most important to them. We know going to the Capitol can be intimidating, and we want to change that.

We are in this together so let’s be strategic and build toward more success!

How To Start a Chapter of Together Oklahoma

by | March 2nd, 2017

Chapters of Together Oklahoma are larger groups that encompass multiple legislative districts. There are lots of things chapters can do, but here is what they must do to be a TOK Chapter:

  1. Be in an area that needs a TOK Chapter.  Our active chapters are TOK OKC, TOK Tulsa, and TOK Norman, but there are more than enough people to start TOK Chapters all over the state.
  2. Have at least 2 people who are enthusiastic about starting a TOK Chapter and willing to plan an event and contact members in your area.
  3. Be ready to support our vision for Together Oklahoma
    • We confidently affirm that a budget is a moral document, and we are deeply troubled by what our current state budget says about Oklahoma values.
    • Working together, we seek the best ways to provide prosperity for all Oklahomans in a thriving economy and with safe, healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities. We connect Oklahomans who share this mission to the facts and to each other.
    • We insist on transparency and accountability from elected leaders, and we commit ourselves to fulfilling our responsibilities as active citizens. We focus on our home state because policy decisions made here are what affect us most and what we have the most power to affect.
    • Our non-partisan advocacy efforts welcome all Oklahomans to join us to work together for a better Oklahoma.
  4. The two founding members should reach out to us at info@togetherok.org and let us know that you’d like to form a chapter once you have 1-3.  We can help you get it going from there.

Your team and your quest!

by | February 23rd, 2017

Photo from Pascal

You, goodly knight, and the constituents of your state Representative and state Senator, have been solemnly charged with a valiant quest! 

As citizens you are responsible for being active members of your state legislative district. Your efforts to influence the 2 state legislative members who carry your banner, to get them to affirm that a state budget is a moral document, and to compel them to focus and find the recurring revenues, will no doubt help save the “kingdom” of Oklahoma.

Yes, there be dragons ahead but take heart! The Good news is there are lots of ways to do a budget and tax advocacy quest.  

Better news!  You are not alone – you can join with other Together OK members in your districts as an adventuring team.

Best news! I am humbly on your team as well, so I’ll keep illuminating some helpful wizards and dangerous dragons you may encounter along the way. 

  • This is your quest! Dragons, wizards, and all.

  • Who is with you?

Come hither, take heed, and I shall tell ye the tale…

This is your quest! Dragons, wizards, and all.

Quest option #1: Ask your legislators, or their assistant, when they can meet with you, and a few of your fellow constituents in a Town Hall meeting! What better way to talk about the revenue options?

  • Town Halls help legislators get some Face-to-Face time with many constituents at once so shouldn’t yours be hosting one to talk about revenue options during this budget crisis?  Some legislators prefer constituent breakfast briefings, office hours at the Capitol, or small group coffee dates back in your district.  All of these options are acceptable but they NEED to meet with you and your fellow constituents! How will they know how to best represent you if they don’t have a Town Hall? Ask what they already have planned, when they can attend one if constituents need to plan one, and let me know using this Town Halls form so I can connect you with your fellow constituents.

Quest option #2: If you can’t meet with them, ask one of your district teammates to meet with them.  

  • Perchance you have social anxiety, maybe you’ve burnt your bridges with your 2 legislators, maybe you’re just plain too busy to set aside this time.  ALL of those are valid reasons to not meet face-to-face for Face-to-Face February, but they don’t exclude you from asking a fellow constituent to go on your behalf.  You can share this blog post at the very least.  You are on this quest with us and we’d be worse off without you!

Who is with you?

  • There are people getting our advocacy alerts in every district in the state.   Fill out this form if you’d like me to help connect you to other advocates near you.
  • Two people plus a plan equals power so connect with another person who is in your part of the state. We’ve even created a Slack channel for each and every district, so you can easily connect with others in your district online to discuss those face-to-face meetings I mentioned above.
  • We also have Outreach, Events, Communications, and Research teams where you can connect with others all over the state to talk about projects that can help us all! Just fill out this form if you haven’t already and we’ll make sure to get you connected.

We have all the tools you need on our TOK website but, if you see something is missing or if you forget how to find or do something, just ask your fellow TOK teammates.  We are on this quest together so be strong, be brave, be willing to do your part, and recruit others!  Together we have already slain some dragons in this session so keep it up! 

Fare thee well and may we meet again upon the morrow in Face-to-Face February and beyond!

-Lady Kara-Joy of the Knights of the Better Budget  

Photo from wiredforlego

 

Taking Action and Staying Sane

by | February 16th, 2017

Together Oklahoma members are working together to keep taking action and staying sane!

Revenue Options!

Not only do we have viable revenue options right here from Oklahoma Policy Institute to consider and share with fellow advocates and our own legislators, this week we also have a very special podcast from me and Policy Director, Gene Perry.  In the OK PolicyCast Episode 24: All about the revenues, we discuss the Governor’s budget ideas, what’s most likely to make it through the Legislature, and what other revenue ideas Oklahoma Policy Institute has put forward to fix our state’s budget hole. I hope you like it, subscribe where you find your podcasts, and feel free to give me feedback if you know how we can make future episodes even better.

Policy Action Alerts from TOK and beyond!

You can depend on me for policy action alerts related to budget each week each week, like the one below.  However, if you’d also like alerts every Monday about Criminal Justice, Education, Health Care, Immigration, Poverty & Opportunity, Voting & Elections, and such, I recommend that you subscribe to the OK Policy general alerts at this link.

Contact your two legislators to let them know that you are supportive of HB 1383 that would increase the Sales Tax Relief Credit, a key support for hundreds of thousands of working families and seniors. This bill passed out of a House subcommittee but will need to heard and approved by the full House Appropriations and Budget committee.  Find out more about it on this Factsheet. At this time bills are being heard in committees and this is a good one that could use your support. 

You need to do your part, but only your part, NOT all the parts!

As a young organizer I used to try so hard to do it all.  Once you see the needs in this world you can’t un-see them, right?  The trouble is that there will always be challenges ahead. For example, Frederick Douglass made essential contributions to the end of Slavery in the United States but before he died the post-civil war construction era had ended and the South was headed for Jim Crow segregation.  He couldn’t do it all but we never hesitate to honor him for all that he DID DO.  Our ancestors planted trees and we can sit in their shade but we also have to get up and plant more trees for the future.

Maybe you and I can’t be a Frederick Douglass for this world but we can each do our part. We’ve talked before about how to do Advocacy with Minimal, Medium, or More Effort, and it is also important to know when to stop and catch your breath.  One of our TOK advocates reminded us in the advocate_self_care Slack channel of  the way that “sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant…Let’s remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. “

Legislator Town Hall Meetings

We’ve been meeting with our legislators for Face-to-face February.  In addition to scheduling your own meeting with at the Capitol or in your district on the weekend, another outstanding opportunity could be planning or attending a Town Hall Meeting. If you know about one of your state legislators hosting a Town Hall Meeting please fill out this form Also, if you’d like to be on a team to plan and host a Town Hall, please fill out this form and we’ll get in touch with you soon. 

Upcoming Events

So remember:

We are planting trees here and trees can take a long time to grow. Don’t try to do it all but like Woody Guthrie said “Take it easy, but take it.”

Time we start acting like citizens instead of subjects.

by | February 9th, 2017

There are lots of great things about Oklahoma but our budget and tax system isn’t one of them! As you probably know, we’ve been working for years to get our state legislators to talk about how to properly fund our public works priorities earlier in session, use credible data to make policy decisions, and do all of this with more transparency and accountability to citizens like you and me.  Right NOW is the time to visit them in their offices to tell them how years upon years of budget cuts are hurting you and your communities!  Give them all the reasons they need to set distractions aside and FOCUS on funding.

This week, I kicked of FACE-TO-FACE FEBRUARY by visiting the Capitol twice. The halls were extremely quiet. I walked right into the offices of both of my legislators and had good conversations with them about:

  • Oklahoma Policy Institute’s suggested revenue options,
  • about why funding schools, public health, alternative courts for people with addiction or mental illness, roads and bridges, clean water, and pay raises for state employees matter to me.  (Do you know what do you want funded? It has practically all been cut.)

I listened attentively as they answered my questions such as:

  • Which revenue options are you considering?
  • What are the best ways for me to communicate with you as your constituent?
  • Are their other ways I can support you and your colleagues in fixing our giant budget hole first and foremost?

I took notes on their responses and the questions that they asked me so I could follow up with:

  • Thank you for taking the time to talk to me;
  • I appreciate knowing that you and I are both concerned about ______;
  • I am glad you know that my community is struggling with ________ and;
  • You asked about ____ and here is what I found_____; and
  • I hope you and I can talk more soon about ways to find more recurring revenues to deal with our structural budget deficit and the immediate need for more funding for the public good .

Before I left their office:

  • I made sure to turn the conversation back to a point where we agree,  
  • I asked them to take a selfie with me, and
  • I thanked them for their time.
  • Then I THANKED THEIR LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT. (Know and value the gatekeepers, right?!)

After my visit I:

  • Sat down to review my notes from the meeting;
  • Sent them a thank you letter right then and there;
  • Reminded them of some important points from our conversation; and 
  • let them know that I am available to them if I can help and that I’ll be in touch again soon.
  • Then I posted my selfie with them on social media with the hashtags #meandmylegislator and #f2fFeb, and
  • posted about my meeting with them in the #legislator_convos channel in togetherok Slack.

Join us! You can:

Too many of our friends and neighbors can’t afford to take the time to visit our legislators at the Capitol, or even for a coffee date in the district, so if you can, you have a responsibility to do so. We are all responsible for our two state legislators and it is time we start acting like citizens instead of subjects.  If you can’t meet in person, do the things you can do, ask others to help do the things they can do, and know that we have your back! We are in this together!