Kara Eastman for Congress

Have you been to a campaign meet-and-greet? I never had before 2016, but they turn out to be:

a) fun
b) a great way to meet and get a sense of candidates
c) a good way to get to know your politically-minded neighbors
d) a great place to grouse about current politics
e) a chance to meet other local politicians (State Senator Daniel Biss, State Senator Don Harmon, and incoming Cook County tax assessor Fritz Kaegi were there), and
f) a good use of your Democratic dollars.

Fundraisers range wildly in how much they ask for. Some might be nothing up front — give if you’re impressed by the candidate and feel so moved. Some have set ticket prices, usually in a range. This one started at $25, which isn’t too bad for a couple hours of wine and delicious appetizers (I contributed six bottles of wine, Sri Lankan ribbon sandwiches, and passionfruit cakelets and marshmallows; other local co-hosts contributed the rest of the food and wine).

This particular fundraiser was hosted by my friend Carollina Song, in her gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright home, for Kara Eastman. (Carollina gave tours of the house as part of the event — wow!)

Kara has local connections, which is why she was fundraising here, but she’s running for Congress in Nebraska, where, as Daniel Biss pointed out in his intro, our dollars go a LOT further in terms of the cost of a media buy. If you’re only able to donate to one race, you might consider this one as one where you can really make a difference.

I knew nothing about Kara going in, but she spoke very well, and I loved her policy positions. She’s competitive in that race, so please do consider donating. Link in the comments!

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Democrats and Money, Redux

I’m about to post a couple of asks for campaign money (for other people, not me). Before I do that, I want to repost something I wrote during my own campaign two years ago; people seemed to find it helpful.
We have a very short window now until the mid-terms, and if you have money to spare and want America to move in a more progressive direction, now is absolutely the time to choose a candidate (or several), and support them with cash.
Right now, personally, I’m prioritizing helping to flip the House blue over anything else political. America’s government right now is like an open wound — flipping the House would dramatically slow the bleeding. We’re even prioritizing that over giving money to worthy organizations like the ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood. They still get our monthly donation, but all additional funds we’re putting towards specific campaigns. Here’s why campaigns need cash help:
“Someone asked me yesterday why I couldn’t just use free digital avenues to build support for my campaign, instead of asking for money. I thought it might help if I explained some of the costs, which frankly kind of shocked me after I started my run. This may also be helpful in understanding why money is such a HUGE factor in politics (and why Republicans keep winning).
I do plan to keep leveraging every digital avenue I have, but there are lots of people who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, or really, much online at all, especially older voters. And the people who bother to vote in off-year elections (about a tenth of the local populace) are often among our older population.
To reach the voters, you can do things like go door-to-door (which I’ll be doing), but at least around here, most people are working during the day, so your window to reach them is very limited. There also aren’t that many days between now and April 4th, so I’m not going to have time to knock on every door, even if I wanted to. You can stand outside grocery stores and train stations, and I already have some of that in the schedule too. But the main other thing you can do is spend money.
Let’s say I want to do a basic flyer, about me and about what the library board does. If I send it to all the likely voters in this election, about 6000 people, that’ll cost $3000 just for the postage. $3000! I admit, I was really startled by that number. If you want to make five hundred buttons, that’ll cost perhaps $300 for design and printing. Full color bookmarks? That might run another $1000, if you want to send them to all the voters. Political palm cards, with info about you and the date of the election, that can be tucked into the doors that you’re passing — another $1000 or $2000. A full-page ad in the League of Women Voters program book will cost something; so will a newspaper ad. And let’s not forget pizza for your weary volunteers!
When I started this, I thought, oh, I don’t even know if I’ll need to raise money at all. And then I thought, well, I’m sure $2-3K will be plenty. Now I’ve realized that I could easily spend $10,000 on print materials alone, and even that wouldn’t guarantee that all the voters in Oak Park would even see my name once before they got to the ballot box. And someone told me recently that it usually took about seven ‘touches’ — seven mentions of your name — before someone decided to actually vote for you.
So, hope that helps explain why I’m asking for money, and why, if there’s anyone whose campaign you want to support, contributing money is actually really helpful.
Democrats, in particular, I think are more likely to be reluctant to give money to political campaigns (rather than non-profit orgs), feeling like money in politics is somehow a little corrupt, that we ought to be able to win on the purity of our ideas alone, the rightness of our cause. I know I gave to the ACLU and the SPLC long before giving to any candidate. But I’ve recently come to realize that before the voters can vote for the good guys, they need to know their names, and ideally, a little of what they stand for.
Money helps tremendously with getting the word out.”
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There is something fundamentally flawed with a nation composed primarily of politicians whose own lives will not be endangered by changes in policy.

Men, making decisions on reproductive rights, whose own bodies will never experience the rigors of pregnancy. The wealthy one-percenters, making decisions about minimum wage, with no understanding of what it means to live on less than that every day. Straight people deciding who does or doesn’t get to visit their loved ones in the hospital. Cisgendered folks deciding about trans health care coverage.

I don’t know what the solution is — it also seems wrong to require that you have some skin in the game in order to advocate policy changes. I’m not disabled, but as an elected official in our strategic planning meeting on Saturday, I was talking about whether we could add a low-sensory morning at the library, to make space for those who would find it helpful. Allies are useful, I think and hope.

But I watch West Wing, and they lose a big fight about domestic violence funding, or tax breaks for college tuition, and the rich white men in the room are idealists, they’re disappointed at the loss, but then they shrug and move onto the next thing. They don’t go home and spend the next few nights trying to hold themselves together, shaking and scared about what’s coming round the bend, and how it will directly impact their daily lives.

They get to move on.

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Strategic Planning

Read the board packet for this month’s meeting, and sent a message to the library director in preparation for next week’s 6-hour strategic objectives planning meeting. The library is heading into a big planning sequence, considering where we are and where we want to go next; it’s been almost two decades since the last one.
The director asked the trustees what concerns they wanted to bring into the strategic planning meeting. Just as a note, these are the sort of things I’m asking about. I’m looking forward to vibrant discussion, as the trustees and staff work together to balance
a) budgetary constraints and continued attention to keeping property taxes manageable, with
b) focus on our mission goals and excellent and conscientious service to all members of the community.
Some of the things I’d like to see may not turn out to be fiscally feasible, but at this stage, we’re putting our priorities on the table, really hashing out what best service to the community would look like. Then we’ll see which of those we can actually afford, and which may need to be saved for the future.
a) This year, we went through and asked part-time staff how many of them might want to go to full-time. I’m wondering if we’ve put any mechanism in place for future hiring (and/or review of current part-time stuff, perhaps annually), to ensure that the library continues to have a commitment to hiring staff into full-time benefited positions whenever possible?
b) For the strategic planning meeting, my main current questions are centered around access and expanding hours at the current library branches.
c) I also continue to be concerned about lower-level staff wages (personally, I’d like to see a faster rate of increase to the living wage, if possible).
d) And at some point I’d like to circle around to an idea I mentioned briefly some time back — whether it’d be possible to open up a new storefront branch of the library, something small, in areas that may be underserved, such as the SW corner of Oak Park, south of the highway. Just some place where people can pop in and check out even a small range of popular and children’s books (and return books) might be a great way to broaden our reach and increase access.
Looking forward to the discussion, and seeing what other trustees and staff bring to the table.
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I’m at a weird point in my life where it seems like every few weeks I get an invitation to be on a board. That sounds very honoring, but in actuality, it’s mostly come do some free work for us; that’s how working boards for non-profits operate.
Which is just fine, I’m in favor, and the thing is, they are all organizations I am excited about and believe in, and I am, in fact, honored that they would trust me to help steer the organization. But I cannot serve them all.
I think I need to make some guidelines for myself about how many hours of work I can give to boards annually. Considering also how many hours of work I donate to directing the SLF and DesiLit (about 5-20 hours / month, depending on what we’re doing), and how many hours I donate to being an elected trustee for the OP libraries (about 10 hours / month).
My term at the Museum of Science and Industry (about 2 hours / month, averaged out) is ending, so that opens up a slot, potentially. Hmm…
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Home from the library board meeting, four hours later. I had a little while at the start of the meeting when I wasn’t sure I would be able to hold it together through it; I wondered whether I should excuse myself and go home. I had complete faith that the other board members would do a great job with the meeting’s agenda.

But I had taken notes, I had questions to ask, so even though my eyes were red, even though I did suddenly weep a bit out in the hallway during a break, when someone was sympathetic to me, I stayed, and the work of the meeting was engaging, was its own reward. The work of helping to make the library, already so great, just a little bit better.

Thanks to the library trustees and staff for understanding my slightly verklempt state tonight. Thanks for all you do. I really think our library is a light shining in the darkness.

I think Ursula would be proud.

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When my kids were tiny, I spend a lot of time at the Maze branch of our local library. It is not a big library, but it was perfect for me to walk to from our little, often claustrophobic, rental house, with my newborn and a toddler.

We had a trustees meeting there a few months ago, and it was the first time I’d been there in years; I’m closer to the main library now, and it has more of what I need these days. But I’ll always cherish what Maze library provided when I needed it. Peace and stories, community and a breath of sanity.

I ran for office in 2017 out of frustration and anger, because I had seen my country stolen by moneyed interests eagerly swallowing down hateful rhetoric. I can’t regret those motivations entirely, because that frustration and anger fueled me through an intense campaign season.

But it turns out that running for office and governing are two very different things. When I walk into a library board meeting now, to serve as trustee, I am often overwhelmed by what has been entrusted to me and the other trustees. These walls, this cherished, sacred space.

From our library’s mission statement: our libraries work to empower every voice in our community, to share information, services, and opportunities, and to support literacy, education, diversity, inclusion, equity, health, safety, and affordability.

Recommitting to this service in the new year, along with all of my own personal and familial goals — in 2018, I hope to be an excellent public servant, thoughtful and thorough, careful and considerate. Worthy of your trust.

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Brandon Johnson

Tonight’s meet-and-greet with Brandon Johnson, running for Cook County Commissioner for the 1st district. I was impressed, and will be volunteering for him. Please feel free to come to me with any questions you have, and I’ll try my best to answer them. I’ll also have yard signs! The election is March 20th.

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Doug Jones

I am only just starting to understand what it takes to create an upset like Doug Jones’s — but it often starts with meet-and-greets like the one I just hosted, ten people in someone’s living room, learning about a new candidate. Jones must have had a tremendous cadre of volunteers and staffers helping him get the word out to accomplish this.

If I have an ask for you tonight, it’s this — get involved in 2018. Go to a meet-and-greet, or a Democratic party meeting, or the League of Women Voters (non-partisan), or volunteer with voter registration efforts in your community (especially if your community is a historically marginalized one — we need your voices!).

We’re fighting for the soul of America. Join us.

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