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Up For Air: Speak Up at Town Meeting 2022

Updated: Feb 19

“You are never too old to take risks, it’s never too late to pivot, and never too far down the road to turn around. You can change your mind, change direction, change mission. It’s never too late to do dope sh*t. …TOO MUCH is celebrated as your superpower.”

People, it is time for you to be TOO MUCH at Town Meeting. It is the time where decisions are made by those who #ShowUp and decision-makers are influenced by those who #SpeakUp. If you’re a voter in town, you have every right to have your say. Louder for those in the back! Every. Right. To #ShowUpSpeakUP because that is what it means to be part of PowerUP. We need you to be Too Much because the status quo has a deeply ingrained infrastructure of power. Unless we are loud, we will be silenced. You have the superpower. Celebrate it: ShowUP and VOTE May 2, 2022 7:00PM.


In small towns across New England, registered voters are the legislative authority and granted the opportunity to vote on proposals, such as the town’s budget, and local bylaw changes. It is our collective Power, celebrated every year at “Town Meeting”. Breathe it in!


The audacity of democracy empowering the People from the very start... Or did they?


Town Meeting is a direct democracy holdover from the Puritan days when the voting population of a town (aka white male church members) went to town hall to make decisions for the town. Even today, because of family responsibilities, the voting population is far from representative and the setup, if you are a voice for Change, is daunting. We learned that at Town Meeting 2021 (starts at the 2 hour mark).


These are quick tips for MHD Fearfighters who want to find the courage - surrounded by PowerUP Community Members - to speak up at Town Meeting, or at any Public Meeting. As Voters, we have the right to speak and even the opportunity to persuade neighbors by speaking. Find the courage, find your message. Your lived experience is impactful. Find your voice whether you see yourself as a Trailblazer or as a typically quiet Community Member:


We believe in YOU.


1. Plan it:

Plan ahead to be sure what you’re going to say has a persuasive value that does not overwhelm your audience. Be a Storyteller. Messages based on lived experiences penetrate defenses and create an empathy path. The power of your message is to show that this point of view will improve the individual and the community. Get decision-makers, whether they are a town board or Town Meeting voters, to see your perspective, feel the necessity of the change needed/support of the issue presented and then empower them to vote accordingly.


To that end, if someone has already made your point, don’t repeat it word-for-word. People’s mind wanders when they hear the same thing over and over again, particularly fellow voters at Town Meeting. You can simply say, “I agree with what has been said about xyz”.


Be truthful, and passionate, depending on the issue, but without being combative. Your credibility depends upon your ability to communicate effectively to an unfamiliar audience.


Be brief. No one wants to hear a soliloquy. Create an Elevator Speech. (If you were in an elevator with the decision-maker, how could you get across your message in the time it takes to get from the top floor to the lobby?)


Keep in mind that public testimony isn’t a two-way conversation. The Town Moderator holds an enormous amount of power at Town Meeting which means the role requires impartiality that very few other than professionally trained/educated ever obtain. You may ask a question of decision-makers, but the structure of public comment doesn’t necessitate a response. If you take too long to make your point, the Moderator can and will shut you down - the entire process is dangerously subjective since we do not have standard operating procedures in place. Keep that in mind for upcoming 2022 elections.


2. Say it: Identify yourself. Both the decision-makers and the recordkeeper will want to know your full name and street name or precinct. If you are disrupting the status quo, go on record for your children and grandchildren to see.


3. Believe it: Give a one-line intro, such as “I support (your position) the proposed bylaw to change to gender neutral language (issue) because inclusive language creates a foundation to a community-wide sense of belonging (why it’s important).”


4. Prove it: “Frame” the issue showing how it will benefit a broad base of people. For example, “...gender neutral language will benefit our town by expanding our volunteer pipeline. Inclusive language appeals to a broader base of young people looking for ways to be involved. It will also strengthen our efforts to build a community, an economy and a government that reflect recognition of the power in diversity.” Talk about what problem it will solve or what gain it will create. If you have data, present it. Succinctly and emphatically address any false information.


5. Own It:

Reiterate your point (Repeat #3)

Say Your Name.

Express Gratitude.

Take a seat with your PowerUP community members.

Celebrate your active participation in Democracy.


Sources:

Formidable Luuvie Ajayi Jones -a two-time New York Times bestselling author, sought-after speaker, and podcast host who thrives at the intersection of humor, media, and justice.


Stefanie Coxe is the founder & principal of Nexus Werx LLC, a political training company launching the Learn to Lobby line of online and in-person training products.


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