Midcoast Maine Indivisible
March 15th, 2017 Meeting
Watts Hall, Thomaston
Prior to the start, participants completed surveys regarding their priorities on which MMI should focus its efforts.
After a moment of mindfulness, MMI cofounder Tracy Jalbuena reintroduced herself and husband, James Cook. She emphasized the group’s overall philosophy–the need to engage in a broad-based series of actions and events to resist the current political agenda. She reiterated the key components of the Indivisible misson: Resistance (to resist the Trump agenda, in particular, at the national level); Local (specific focus on our own elected representatives); Legislative (effect change by pressuring MoCs and other elected individuals); and Action (to focus on organizing and executing actions and events to enhance the resistance).
Tracy noted the need for more leadership volunteers, especially legislative research (particularly online) regarding bill numbers and substance, progress through the legislative process, etc., to help educate MMI members. She also noted that MMI is currently focused on legislative efforts at the national level, but stressed she was not discouraging members from continuing their own efforts on more local issues.
One member reported he was currently working with the Maine People’s Alliance on amendments to the Maine constitution—he volunteered to act as a legislative researcher.
Since there are currently only two communications volunteers, there is a need for more—both internal (within the membership) and external (the press, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and with other groups).
There were a number of questions about the focus of MMI: Can the national Indivisible organization serve as an effective umbrella for legislative research, etc.? Tracy said yes, but their scope is necessarily broader. She affirmed the existence of the Damariscotta Indivisible group—Lincoln County Indivisible—and James emphasized that MMI works in coordination, rather than in competition, with LCI. Tracy also noted that the Suit Up Maine group (4,000 members online) has acknowledged that its membership contains a large Indivisible component.
James also stressed that MMI remains stubbornly local—we are not just a franchise of national Indivisible and are empowered by our deep and abiding knowledge of and interest in the local impact of national legislative events. ER doctor Tracy followed up with a helpful clinical analogy to explain the need to focus on national issues, at present. In the world of public policy, as in the ER, the needs outstrip the resources—hence, the need to triage our efforts. The purpose of the survey taken at the meeting’s start was to triage MMI’s focus. At the same time, members are not being discouraged from engaging on local and state issues.
Tracy asked members to report back on any recent community events they attended. One person reported on having gone to Susan Collins’ office with Peter
Kalajian(who does so every Tuesday at 1:30 pm in Augusta)—12 LCI and two MMI members met with a staffer. It is evident that Collins’ current response to issues reflects her reality a year ago, rather than the urgency of matters today. Others mentioned the postcard activity of the neighborhood huddles. Also, many noted that the recent Portland listening session with Sen. King was very substantive and positive, not to mention civil, which might presumably be helpful in convincing Sen. Collins to attend a town hall.
Tracy mentioned the ongoing efforts to host a listening session with Susan Collins and that these had serious intent—MMI is expecting her to take this seriously and show up. MMI is looking into potential dates and venues. She also noted a Friday event with Sen. Collins in Portland, sponsored by the Mainers for Accountable Leadership.
Dash Marley offered his help as a liaison with the Maine Clean Elections group.
Sheri Jorden reported that at last week’s leadership meeting, a few people suggested that MMI might host a communications/letterwriting workshop to assist MMI members. The workshop could invite people with expertise to present. She stressed that the goal is not to produce boilerplate letters or communications but to help members express their personal reactions and to help them to hone their message regarding legislative/policy issues when speaking with legislators. Rep. John Spear agreed that legislators do not appreciate form letters. MMI members agreed such a forum would be helpful and are particularly interested in inviting experts to present and participate in the workshops. Members recommended moving forward with the concept.
Discussing upcoming events, Tracy mentioned the ongoing coordination for the Tax Day March, April 15th, in Thomaston from 12 to 2 pm., the goal of which is to focus attention on getting Trump to release his tax returns. Volunteers are needed, such as help with logistics, parking, etc. MMI members indicated their preference that this be an actual march, rather than an event at people are just standing. Volunteers are needed to prepare and distribute flyers. Wendy offered to coordinate a Watts Hall sign-making event, and Amy suggested posting online the logo for the flyer so people can make their own signs. Tracy noted that LCI members will be participating in the March.
Tracy also asked for help in crafting a code of civil conduct/demonstration protocol for MMI participation is events like the Tax March. Someone noted that the Thomaston Code Enforcement officer has been given a heads up and is very supportive of the March. Greg Marley suggested using colorful armbands as a means to signify that a marcher is a coordinator/marshal.
James reported on the results of the survey of member suggestions for affinity/focus groups. The tally was: Environment 48; Healthcare 46; Russia 42; Civil Rights and Immigration 26; Trump’s Lies 14; and Education 11. The members broke into their respective affinity groups and discussed ideas and strategy. Tracy noted this was just the first step and that the affinity group discussions would continue, but she stressed the need for each group to decide on whether the goal is to educate ourselves about an issue, or to focus on an action item. She promised to gather the ideas from each group’s sign-up sheet.
Liz Smith, chairman of the Knox County Democrats, reported on an upcoming visioning meeting on Sunday, March 19, from 4:30 to 6 pm, above Union Hall in Rockport. She encouraged all MMI members to attend. She also invited members to join her and her colleagues for a tour of the state house in Augusta so they can become more experienced navigating that terrain.
Tracy reminded members that she puts out a weekly action item email—the goal is a list of events/activities in which members can choose to participate.
Finally, Tracy asked for feedback on what is working and what can be improved. Positives were the Watts Hall acoustics; the meeting time schedule is well observed; meetings and agenda are focus and well organized; and there is little whining, just focused discussion. Suggested improvements: collecting more donations at the next meeting; having people stand up when speaking; carpooling for the meetings (Midcoast Ride Board?); getting information about upcoming meetings into the calendars of local publications; sending out a press release; distributing event and meeting flyers in selected local coffee shops; and using Letters to the Editor as a means to communicate information about MMI activities.
Greg Marley reported on the resolution supporting diversity and inclusiveness recently passed by the Rockland City Council with overwhelming support.
Finally, Tracy reiterated she needs more external communications volunteers.
Sheri Jorden, Keeper of the Buckskin…
Next Meeting: Wed. March 29th at Watts Hall—7 to 8:30 pm.