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Don’t Just Yell At Government Meetings — Make Your Yelling Effective!

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Dear Allan, Thank you so much!  You will be happy to know that I have pulled my son and we are enjoying an early summer break “unschooling” and I WILL NOT stop fighting.  The more I go the more I learn about the injustice and the freedoms we are letting them take away.  I’m reaching out to as many legislators as will talk to me I have a fairly large parent group organized we have stood outside the school buildings getting signatures, mailing affidavits to board members, superintendents, and legislators.   Our board meeting is May 17th and I can’t wait to let you know how it goes but we are ready to take them down!  The first step in changing this world is starting with our small town.   I appreciate you getting back to me it

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Dear Allan,

Thank you so much!  You will be happy to know that I have pulled my son and we are enjoying an early summer break “unschooling” and I WILL NOT stop fighting. 

The more I go the more I learn about the injustice and the freedoms we are letting them take away.  I’m reaching out to as many legislators as will talk to me I have a fairly large parent group organized we have stood outside the school buildings getting signatures, mailing affidavits to board members, superintendents, and legislators.  

Our board meeting is May 17th and I can’t wait to let you know how it goes but we are ready to take them down!  The first step in changing this world is starting with our small town.  

I appreciate you getting back to me it definitely will help keep me motivated for the days ahead.  

Deepest thanks,

A Mother Getting Ready To Win 

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Dear readers, please share this piece. Men and women are rising up and demanding they be heard by their elected officials and that the tyranny of the past year come to an end and now. Please share this by text message, email, and other media with every person you know who is currently speaking before boards of supervisors, county committees, city councils, school boards, and other government commissions or legislation bodies. In doing so, you will have done them a great strategic favor in thinking through how their important efforts can be magnified even further. 

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Awesome things happened in Vail, Arizona last month as parents shut down a meeting in which they felt unrepresented.

Moments like this embolden the participants, inspire others, and may put fear into the heart of an opponent. But they do not necessarily move the needle.

The reason for this is that so many people in positions of power have been trained to follow procedure and to say “I can’t,” “My hands are tied,” or “I’m just following the law.” They are obsessed with the procedure and numb to the spirit.

If there is not a procedural matter before them and on the agenda, no matter how rowdy things get, many officials will resort to a sense of “duty” as they follow the procedures of the committee. Not everyone does that, but once someone digs their heels in and starts talking about duty, they become nearly immovable — you and I should know that better than anyone. Do you read these pages because they make you rich, or do you read these pages because they make you better, more duty focussed, more upright, more honorable?

If you’re reading these pages duty, honor, and living an upright life are probably important to you.

Once a person has dug in and declared that duty is what holds them to inaction, no matter how wrong they are and no matter how much they agree with the vocal room of people asking them to do otherwise, it becomes very hard to convince a person to not do his duty. For many elected officials that means following the rules as they know them.

Duty can be a powerful friend to freedom and a powerful enemy. If you just say “they are corrupt,” throw your hands in there are and stop there, you miss many opportunities to win victories big and small.

Am I saying that corrupt politicians don’t exist? Absolutely not. They are all around us. Yet even the corrupt can be swayed. Am I saying that you shouldn’t yell at a government meeting? Absolutely not. Someone doing wrong deserves all the passion and vitriol you can give them. Am I saying that I have all the answers? Nope. I’ve won a few battles though. Am I saying that this works every time? Definitely not.

What I’m saying is that if speaking at government meetings is important to you, then look over this list and familiarize yourself with any process you aren’t already participating in. Most people I meet who care about this topic are benefitted by the pointers offered here. What I’m saying is that I want you to be even more effective at defending your freedom, because I know how that can ripple out into the world. I’m a firm believer that other people defending their own freedom are also defending my freedom.

Even though you probably aren’t trying to defend my freedom, I’d like to thank you for that dear freedom fighter, because you are doing exactly that. And as I see more of the technocratic madness of 2020 shift into the victories of 2021 by my compatriots, victories that may leave us even more free, I see that the tide is turning, that we are winning, and that it is time to close on these victories.

I’m going to give a school district below as an example, but it will work approximately the same on any government board. I offer this to anyone approaching a board to sway their opinion.

1.) Do an internet search for the school district. The district probably has a website or at least a page on some other institution’s website.

2.) That website should have some pages about the school board.

3.) That website should have some information about administrative staff. Initially you are looking for the administrative staff of the entire board and not of the individual board members.

4.) The administrative staff probably knows the rules better than anyone on the board. This makes them a tremendous asset to you in this process. That value is hard to overstate.

5.) Call the administrative staff.

6.) Ask the administrative staff how to get an agenda item added.

7.) The answer might be “A member of the board just has to call me or email me with an agenda item.”

8.) Ask how a member of the public can have an agenda item added. A member of the public probably can’t directly do that, but it’s worth asking about.

9.) Ask the administrative staff what the date of the next meeting is (a detail you probably already know and that is widely known) and more importantly, ask her what the deadline is for adding an agenda item (a detail that few people know, and not even some board members).

10.) The answer might be “By noon, one week before the upcoming board meeting.”

11.) Ask administrative staff for phone numbers and emails of the board members. They may not want to give these. You want these. You want every email address and every phone number.

Even if you live in a place where only one board member is geographically your board member, you want both email and phone numbers for all the board members, because you are going to get to know those board members so well that they wake up in the night with your name on their lips.

Don’t be deterred in this pursuit of building an ongoing working relationship with each one, even those who may initially disagree with you.

12.) Before you get off the phone with the administrative staff, mention that ending face masks mandates is important to you (or whatever the topic of importance is to you), and ask the administrative staff if any board members are more open to what you want than others.

The administrative staff probably won’t share those details, but it’s worth asking, because they might provide helpful info, especially if they agree with you or are feeling generous.

13.) If there is a board member that agrees with you, reach out to them first. They are an ally on the inside. Not only does that help you, but it also helps them because they can be far more effective by having an ally like you on the outside.

Lots of impactful change is done with exactly that combination: an ally on the inside working in collaboration with an ally on the outside.

14.) A detail that will probably warm the conversation up is if the administrative staff happens to have any children going to school in the district.

15.) Follow up with the administrative staff later. Check in with them. Say hi to them if you ever see them. Thank them for their work any time that opportunity comes.

Board members come and go. Staff can be a fixture. Don’t be a stranger to them. Be a cordial person in their lives whether they agree with you or not.

Oftentimes general staff are not political, can be fairly neutral, and don’t tend to have a stake in the decisions. That’s part of how they keep their jobs. They are often paper-pushers doing their jobs, keeping things humming along, and keeping themselves out of trouble each day until 5 p.m. and doing that day after day until they get a pension.

Any antagonism they may appear to have toward you is likely from 1.) The prospect of you making more work for them and 2.) You coming at them with hostility (which is common for a worked up person). If you can avoid either of those, you are a step ahead. Try to catch flies with honey instead of vinegar.

16.) Before you are done talking to the administrative staff, ask them where to find copies of the bylaws and any other rules that the board operates according to. Ideally you will either find that online while you are on the phone with them and will then download it or they will email you a copy while you are on the phone with them.

17.) You want to understand how each member stands on key issues to you. They all vote on these issues, not just your board member, therefore you want a relationship with each of them.

The board members won’t want that individual conversation, because it will be seen by them as wasting their time. This is especially true after years of them not having to deal much with the public. They may want you to go through a process of only interacting with one board member. They may then want for you to see to it that that board member address the council on your behalf.

If board members can convince you to accept that, you are almost assured to lose in any matter brought before the board. They may not do this with sinister intent, but the outcome nonetheless is to beat you. If you have a local board member, you ideally want your board member to be your ally, of course, but you do not want a board member to be your voice.

You are perfectly capable of being your own voice.

18.) This behavior you are engaging in doesn’t need a name. Many boards will be unused to this behavior and will want to place you into a box that makes sense to them. You are just being an active and informed citizen. That’s it. That’s the only name I’d even suggest giving such work when someone attempts to pigeonhole you.

Some may call this word “advocacy,” which is the process of “giving voice to those with no voice.” Others may call this lobbying. Be very careful attaching a term to what you are doing, especially if that term is “lobbying,” because in some places lobbying comes with forms and regulations attached.

Some people with a bureaucrat personality and others with an obfuscating personality will happily try to get a mother addressing the local school board to fill out the same forms and follow the same regulations as a crooked K-Street lobbyist who makes a living greasing the palms of politicians in state capitals, big cities, and in Washington, D.C. This is an obstacle that some will put in your way if they can and a box that others will blindly put you into if you say the word “lobbying.”

Be mindful of that obstacle. You have more important work to do than that. Being deceived by such trickery will prove distracting to you.

You don’t need to fill out forms to speak to government officials. The first amendment says so. The red-headed stepchild of the first amendment is the right to redress grievances. You have that right. It’s no one’s duty to license you for enacting that right. If you let a bureaucrat put a license on your basic rights though, he’ll happily do so. Don’t fall for that. You want to speak to every board member individually.

19.) You want a private meeting with them — each member of the board, ideally in person, but video conferencing and phone calls do the job.

20.) Do not accept the public comments section at the school board meeting as the equivalent of this personal meeting. It most certainly is not an equivalent. You want dedicated, one on one time to speak and to be responded to with each individual board member.

21.) Staff members may want to take the meeting with you rather than allowing you to speak to the boss. That is far better than being told that no one will speak to you. Consider that a mere stepping stone, however. You may need to start out speaking to staff first. That’s okay, they are vetting you. It’s not ideal, but sometimes that’s part of the process with some staff.

Then at the end of that meeting with staff, insist on having a follow-up meeting with the board member individually. They will offer to relay information for you. They will say how busy the boss is. Don’t stand for that. The elected official is the elected official; the assistant is not the elected official. The elected official, as an elected official, should make every effort to speak to you.

And as far as I’m concerned, you are the boss in the relationship. It doesn’t need to be vocalized, but I think it’s a good attitude to remind yourself of.

22.) The more you win these minor fights, the better you get at asserting your rights. Consider them practice. When you get an assistant to do your will and schedule a meeting with an elected official, these minor victories should be recognized and celebrated for what they are: victories.

With every new victory you are on the right path. These victories help you build muscle to win even greater victories.

23.) Familiarize yourself with the bylaws and other rules of the board before the next meeting. It may all be standard stuff, but it may also be surprisingly helpful.

The bylaws are likely to contain interesting little jewels that a parent-centered activist of the past left in those bylaws to helps someone just like you.

History may have forgotten the name of that activist, but don’t let their work go to waste by not even reading the bylaws and keeping fully informed of them.

The Governor of California right now wishes the recall policy would have been one of those “bylaws” that would have just been forgotten. Don’t sabotage yourself by denying yourself knowledge of a useful tool that will only take you 15 or 20 minutes of reading.

24.) Share those bylaws with your fellow activists.

25.) If you don’t yet have fellow activists, read this and this.

If you feel alone in any battle, you are literally minutes of effort away from having an amazing crew of people.

Make it a point to ask other parents “What do you think about mandatory face masks?” Don’t spend too much time with people who disagree with you. If they disagree you can simply try again “Do you think your child would be happier with optional fave mask wearing instead of mandatory face mask wearing?” Really the greatest gift a person can give you in this situation is that clarity of they actually believe so that you can save yourself the precious resource of time.

Having a difference of opinion is no reason to get worked up. In contrast, the worst thing a person can do to you in such a situation is to waste your time. That’s a reason to get annoyed, and it can even be someone with the same opinion as you, an “ally,” who does that.

Ignore disagreement. It’s usually a waste of times. Clarity is a benefit to your time and other limited resources.

Find the handful of passionate and reliable people who agree with you, and you guys will likely have the ability to shape policy no matter what anyone else thinks. It takes a passionate and committed minority to make change, not a quiet and obedient majority.

26.) Write down the number of any parent who you think is on your side, even if lukewarm. Keep in touch with them. You’d be surprised how quickly lukewarm people can suddenly get fired up. Santa Clara County changed their vaccine passport policy and demanded businesses snoop on their employees last week. They woke a mass of sleeping lions with that policy.

27.) Again, start with the most friendly board member. Let them know face masks are important to you. This part takes a lot of finesse. The more you have these conversations the better you get. Have them. Focus on the friendly ones. Make your way all the way to the notably unfriendly ones. Don’t ever be anything but smiley, sweet, and polite with even the most venomous board members.

28.) Eventually, you want to get them to introduce a vote to end mandatory masks as an agenda item at the very next meeting. Keep that goal in mind. That is what this all comes down to. Anything that distracts from that goal is a problem and is not something you should be engaged in.

29.) This can happen in one conversation or may take several, but this is the goal. This might be agreed to after a ten-minute conversation or it could take ten, one-hour conversations. As long as you keep prioritizing the low-hanging fruit and staying focussed on the outcome of getting an agenda item voted on, you are going to make that happen.

30.) Apply pressure. If this person is a friendly, ask 5 or 10 folks from your group to call and let them know that the board member’s support for this issue is really important and to thank the board member for the support.

I’ll bet at least 98% of school board members in the country have not had ten phone calls on a single issue, let alone ten phone calls to thank them.

Imagine how effective that kind of activism is — a polite phone call to tell an ally on the board how happy you are to hear of their support and agreement — in shaping policy to reflect your values, especially in this atmosphere in which citizen participation is close to nil.

And I’m not suggesting it to be manipulative either. I think it’s just really decent to tell people “thank you,” and that you like them, and any other edifying thing that is truthful.

31.) If a board member is not friendly, have the same 5 or 10 people call and say how important it is for them to help end mandatory masking and get an agenda item on the next meeting. And you might not have a small group but a big group. When your group is 100 or 1000 parents in size, yup, when you need to send a message, don’t be afraid to make the phone rings. When an elected official turns off their voicemail, you know you’ve been noticed.

32.) Call the other board members. Have the same conversation. These are likely 15-minute to 30-minute conversations. Be sure not to just make it about business, especially on the first phone call. Find out about their passions and how they got involved in this and why. What of town do they live in? Where did they grow up? What do they do for a living? What kinds of hobbies do they have? And don’t just interview them, let them know about you too. Make it a conversation.

The first phone call lets you build a little relationship that has staying power. It lets shorter phone calls follow and for the two of you to still be in rapport with each other.

Two people who both like corgis or who are both real estate investors or who both have kids of the same age are going to have a lot easier of a time hearing each other’s different opinions and honoring them than two complete strangers. But, again, I don’t bring this up for the purpose of manipulation. I don’t bring it up because it will help you achieve your end, which is also important. I bring it up because it’s the right thing to do to treat a fellow human like a human. If anyone can’t find it in them to care about another human just because they have a difference of opinion, it might be time to search their heart and figure some stuff out in their own soul and their own home before they go out and save the world.

33.) Apply pressure. Have the same people call those other board members. Yes, the board member may have to have 5 or 10 hours of conversation that looked similar to the other conversations and in which the board member needs to explain himself again. Don’t shortchange this process. Don’t let a group leader speak on your behalf. Make the elected official have conversations with all 10 parents, and not with one representative of 10 parents.

If he says “Are you with Jane and Tom’s group? I talked to them already. Check with them if you want to know where I stand on this.” You can say “I know Jane and Tom; our children go to school together, but I represent myself and my family, and I expect answers and explanations directly from you for every vote you take.”

The group will be so much stronger if you do this, stronger both now and in the future. One reason, among many, is how amazing it is that some people really click with some board members and others don’t. The ones who click will be a true asset to the organization now and moving forward. That asset would never have been recognized any other way than by getting people to have one on one conversations with their elected officials.

Appointing one group member as a spokesperson saves everyone’s time, but it sure sacrifices a lot of relationship-building between your group members and the official, a lot of capacity building in your group, a lot of comfort building in your group, and it really denies the impact of having all those people call and expect to be treated as individuals. There is impact in those ten phone calls.

Some elected officials (I’m not joking) will even change their vote to not have to have those ten phone calls with your group the next time around.

34.) Once an agenda item has been set, have more people call those board members telling them how important this vote is to you and thanking them. Have the same people call again, following up, letting them know the agenda item is set.

Note: THIS NEXT STEP IS WHERE MOST PEOPLE START THE PROCESS. THEY IGNORE THE VALUE OF THE PREVIOUS 34 STEPS, WHICH MAKES THE NEXT STEP — THE ONE WHICH MOST PEOPLE FOCUS ON — SO MUCH LESS EFFECTIVE AT WINNING, BUILDING COMMUNITY, AND ADVANCING YOUR VALUES.

35.) Apply pressure. It’s nice to have 200 people show up yelling. But what you really want is 200 people to show up yelling when there is an agenda item that can be voted on. Get your 10, 20, or 200 people there that night for the vote.

36.) Keep in touch with friend and foe.

37.) The schools are run under such demonic spirits of fear, intimidation, control, and indoctrination, because this process is less commonly followed by concerned parents than it can be.

38.) Help friends get re-elected with money and gifts of time to make introductions, knock on doors for them, and secure them votes.

39.) Help replace foes with better people more friendly to your needs.

40.) Build your list, keep in touch with friend and foe, keep vocal and active, keep organizing, and you will be shocked at how quickly this board, other boards, and the world around you suddenly start to reflect your values. It’s not about having values, it’s not about speaking values, it’s about organizing the right resources at the right time so that any person in a position of authority who is remotely interested in logic, decency, or just self-preservation will vote in accordance with your values.

That’s what it comes down to.

Thank you for the hard work you do. Please push ahead and do so with haste. If the fall flu season comes and these one-size-fits-all health mandates are still a part of our daily lives, we will have such a difficult time ever getting rid of them. We have a very narrow window of opportunity weeks and months long.

This fight must happen now and not a moment can be lost in distraction. We must win this. So much depends on us doing so.

Stop the Face Masks in Your Own lives and the lives of everyone around you. Do it quickly, easily, and without conflict. Read Allan Stevo’s “Face Masks in One Lessonto learn how. Read’s his LewRockwell.com writing to learn how. And sign up for his RealStevo.com newsletter, videos, and classes to learn how. 

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