Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advocates for Betty mobilize for our friend

This blog is about grassroots advocacy and usually I write about issues, strategies and news I hope readers will use. This is no exception. I hope some of you will act on this. I want to help my hairdresser take time off to treat new cancer without the worry of losing that income for her family. She is self-employed and also insured.

Betty is pretty uncomfortable with this, I admit. Last time I was in her chair she told me what she was facing and how she hoped for the best. I asked then if she had clients who were famous - thinking how to arrange a benefit if her tests had sad results. While she was quick to deflect the question, I know a lot of people know Betty Eskew. She owned Hairvoyant on White Bridge Road for about a decade & now styles hair at The Ritz in Stanford Square for the past few years. I'm thinking a lot of people who are clients, worked with her or know her want to help.

A lot of people know her husband, Jim Eskew, too. In recent years he was the voice of Traffic & Weather on many radio stations and before then was a local radio rock jock. We worked together at WLAC in the 80's before I discovered his wife and her talents. Now retired, he and Betty have raised their family and are raising some grandchildren. I've known Betty & Jim Eskew for close to 30 years I'm amazed to say. She knew me when I wore an asymmetrical cut & shoulder pads.

I always say Betty is on my Team - people who I go to for advice and support when I'm spiritually stuggling or contemplating change.  For years Betty told me what color and hairdo was best for campaigning, corporate climbing and for bridging from carpool to Metro Council. She tells me when I look weary or Hot. (I hear my kids groan here. OK. Moms don't look Hot.)

We all need a friend like Betty.
Live-tweeting my haircut during short hair season, I showed Betty the basics of social media.
Betty can mobilize one of the greatest grassroots networks ever when she wants to, too.  Hairdressers have the ear of the city, and while they clip, they quip. They talk about current events, what she likes and doesn't like. She is a major grassroots Influencer.  But that's not what makes her special. What makes her special is the way she makes everyone around her feel special. She takes care of all her clients, her family (extended all ways) and countless others, too.

Now we'd like to help take care of Betty.  If you want to help, or spread the word, please do.  If people donate the cost of one cut or color, that will give Betty a chance to stay off her feet and recover. The prognosis is good. Now in her throat and neck, the cancer's origin still must be found & a treatment must begin.  While doctors do their part, this grassroots network wants to kick in too. We're advocating for Betty during this holiday season. You can too by sending a contribution to:
Betty Eskew at 1714 Saxony Court, Murfreesboro, TN 37129

or depositing a gift to her SunTrust account. Email me for account number if necessary.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Mobilización Nacional Día del Llamado Nacional Jueves
13 de octubre 2011

¡Únase a nosotros el próximo jueves 13 de octubre 2011, el día donde usted al igual que los partidarios de los Centros de Salud de todo el país podrán unirse al llamar con una sola voz al Congreso y a la Casa Blanca para proteger a nuestros Centros de Salud Comunitarios, así como a los pacientes que atienden!

¡Necesitamos que TODOS los defensores de los Centros de Salud Comunitarios actúen! El Presidente y los líderes del Congreso están considerando EN ESTE MOMENTO propuestas para dirigir los recursos federales, algunas de las cuales podrían literalmente dejar en cero los financiamientos para los Programas de los Centros de Salud o podrían eliminar drásticamente programas que son críticos como por ejemplo Medicaid. ¡Por favor participe y anime a otros a participar el jueves 13 de octubre, para asegurarnos de que el Congreso y la Casa Blanca reciban un mensaje que no podrán ignorar!

Instrucciones para el jueves 13 de octubre, Día del Llamado Nacional:

1.     Llame a los miembros de su Congreso: Utilice el número gratuito para llamar a defensores al 1-866-456-3949 y dígale a su representante y a AMBOS SENADORES: “No le den poca importancia al programa de los Centros de Salud Comunitaria mientras negocian los cambios a Medicaid y los recortes al presupuesto federal. La salud y las vidas de nuestras familias y de sus vecinos no se pueden negociar. Estoy contando con su apoyo para que apoye a mi Centro de Salud.”

a.          Sólo necesita llamar ese número de apoyo UNA VEZ - manténgase conectado a la línea después de cada conversación para ser conectado automáticamente a su legislador más cercano.

2.     Llame a la Casa Blanca, a través de la línea gratuita: 1-202-456-1111 y deje un mensaje para el Presidente que diga: “No le den poca importancia al programa de los Centros de Salud Comunitaria mientras negocian los cambios a Medicaid y los recortes al presupuesto federal. La salud y las vidas de nuestras familias y de sus vecinos no se pueden negociar. Estoy contando con su apoyo para que apoye a mi Centro de Salud.”

a.     Al llamar a la línea gratuita de la Casa Blanca, puede que dure algunos momentos para que se conecte a un OPERADOR REAL, pero SI LO VAN A CONECTAR, y podrá dejar un mensaje con una persona REAL. Asegúrese de llamar la Casa Blanca ANTES de que cierre la línea gratuita a las 5:00 p.m. horario del este de los Estados Unidos.

Precaución: Cuando llame las oficinas de su Congreso y a la Casa Blanca la línea podrá estar ocupada, debido a que TANTOS defensores de los Centros de Salud están llamando al mismo tiempo. ¡NO SE RINDA, siga llamando hasta que logre conectarse!

Únase al Equipo de Defensores Móbiles
Para obtener recordatorios e información actualizada de los defensores de los Centros de Salud, mande un mensaje de texto con la palabra ADVOCATE al número 69866.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Metro Council needs neighborhood advocates

You've seen my neighborhood.  You know I'm an advocate. When I served on the Metro Council, my district downzoned more area than any other district in the city. Residents who normally don't organize asked for the action, organized petition drives & met my request to show that 80% of affected property owners were in support of it.

That process worked. Some efforts took longer than others, and the process changed when I moved into a second term and new Councilmembers objected. Overall, the process worked - not just to restrict construction of "attached homes" where large-scale residential construction was allowed in primarily single-family neighborhoods. It also drove the Council to come to a new definition that solved the need to re-zone property to protect property owner's interests.

Base zoning in the area allowed construction of  "duplexes", homes built at the time to look like one home, usually ranch-style. I was an owner-occupant of one before I married. It was built in 1950. New "duplexes" became two stand-alone homes with 10-foot connecting wall during the booming '80's and beyond. They often pushed the limits of design to do this. Sometimes they worked. Often they didn't.

After I left the Council, the debate rolled on. It adopted a new definition of "duplex," defining two-stand alone homes on one lot as a "duplex" when they meet all set-back requirements and stand 10-feet apart just like they would if they had a wall.  That compromise satisfied everyone, except us language purists and I did not object. The issue died down. Community standards won.

Today endorsements for neighborhood-friendly candidates now in a run-off election for Metro Council were announced. Solutions can emerge from collaboration and consensus.
When partisan interests are tempered with thoughtful, impressive advocacy progress can happen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nashville Community Education has an AmeriCorps Vista position open

This would be a good short-term position for someone interested in public service. Please pass along the job description.  The position is open until filled.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The one where my home life resembles national politics

I knew when I bought my home 26 years ago, it would be a good investment. A quiet street where people stroll. Within walking distance of a great neighborhood public school. About fifty years ago, several dozen ranch-style homes were built on my circle/street here, on land where Geddes-Douglas Nursery grew trees. Today it is a demolition zone, where the land for my home outweighs the value of its shelter.

It is distracting & depressing to work from my idyllic home-office when nearby homes start coming down. Dust covers my property, porta-johns go up and privacy goes away. In this I have no choice. In the past ten years, gentle growth that accompanies upgrades and remodeling was pushed out with violent surges. Showcase homes with crews of landscapers, pool cleaners, carpenters, long-haul deliverers and even sight-seers laid claim to the benefits our sweet neighborhood historically shared.

Homes have gone from being 2500 to 7000 square feet big on our half-acre lots in the last ten years, so it's not editorializing to say the character of the neighborhood has changed. Instead of feeling pride and welcome, I can't help but see visitors now as possible property investors, not possible neighbors. Today I am sad and sorry to see another home go. We enjoyed a simple, satisfying way of life here for so many years. We live abundantly, amidst prosperity. When we bought this home we knew it was going to be a good investment anyway. So why do I feel invisible & marginalized today? Is my community at-risk or getting stronger? It's all in the definitions you use, I'm sure.

Monday, August 8, 2011

White House proclaims this National Health Center Week

Across the US, municipalities, states & even the White House are recognizing this week as National Health Center Week. Last year, President Obama recognized community health centers with this proclamation. I was honored to be among those who received one.

 I especially love the gold seal and the official signature. I don't care if a magic pen was used to sign it.
It's official and it's on my wall in my office.

This is a week to raise awareness of the need for and value of community health centers in America. Happy National Health Center Week!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Remember back in the day when a hand-delivered press release stood out and got attention? Back when  real-time news coverage came at 6 & 10pm CT or the next day or next week? Not anymore! TV and newspapers aren't the only place people get their news today. Today, Twitter is my primary news source.

Social media provides the perfect vehicle for building excitement and awareness.  Community health centers using Facebook and Twitter should not ignore those platforms in any campaign communications mix. Here are ten ways to use social media to promote National Health Center Week:

  1. Use an image of the National Health Center Week poster as your health center's profile picture on Facebook now through August 13. Ask health center staff, board members & supporters to do that too.  Do the same on Twitter.
  2. Don't limit coverage of NHCW activities to coverage of an actual event. Feature photos of preparations for on Facebook or Flickr. Show people in action, building bulletin boards, setting up displays or simply smiling and holding up a tee-shirt or giveaway that will be used during events.
  3. You could also video people getting ready for a big event, then upload it to YouTube. People love seeing video on Facebook. If people you photo or video don't object, tag them whenever you post content that features them. That makes the content appear on their Facebook page where their friends will see it too.
  4. Cross-promote. Tweet messages about your Facebook and YouTube postings and link to them.
  5. Thank and recognize dignitaries, sponsors & supporters on Twitter & Facebook. If you're out of ideas for content, quote facts about America's community health centers. Link to NACHC, your state primary care association website or your own where information supports each fact.
  6. Video messages of appreciation from staff, your board, or community leaders about the good work at your community health center. Save it to a DVD and play it in your lobby on your television. Upload it to YouTube. Link it to Facebook, Twitter or to an evite-invitation.
  7. Cover your own event as a news story and post it to Facebook soon after the event. Build a photo file. Shoot a short video and report on activity just as if you would see it in traditional news media.  
  8. Develop a hashtag for an activity and live-tweet it. You never know who might be watching, follow your hashtag and learn about your health center that way.
  9. If you sponsor a forum, consider livestreaming video on the internet. Using services like Ustream.tv, you can broadcast your event live over the Internet. This helps expand your audience and interact with them, even if they are not present in person at your event.
  10. Create a blog and post video/photos along with narrative that may range from reflections on the mission of the work of one person, to the history about your health center, or patient stories (get their permission on a signed release!). The ideas are endless. Blogger and Posterous are two very simple platforms for blogging and again, it gives you another way to feature content, cross-promote it, and tell your story, your way.
Video is not hard to shoot, edit and share these days if you use a flipcam-type camera like I do. Digital photos can be taken by mobile phones, point-and-click cameras or with more professional equipment.

Your organization may chose one or many of the ideas I've submitted for consideration. It is not necessary to be active in all social media to get attention. If you chose one, I'd chose Facebook, where your patients & staff are probably most active.  This is also a good chance to become Friends with more people who could benefit from knowing what's happening at your community health center.

Here's an example of one FQHC promoting activity for NHCW on video.

Is your organization using social media to promote National Health Center Week?  Are you using it another way? If so, please share!

Friday, July 29, 2011


I mentioned earlier this week that National Health Center Week is right around the corner ( Aug 7-13) and all across the county, community health centers are publicizing their events. Their intent is to bring attention to the work of community health centers - bringing preventative & primary care to over 20 million Americans regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Their publicity efforts will draw patients in for services, dignitaries in for tours & media in to cover that.  This year many will integrate social media and their websites more than ever before. Here are some tips for using the digital domain to publicize their activity.

1. Link related content to your press release and distribute it online, by email. To help editors and reporters gain background easily, hyperlink key phrases straight to online sources for more information. Connect them to your website, NACHC's Health Center Week website, but also HRSA, state sources, or anywhere you think will give them insight to the greater story: that changes in Medicaid or health care reform policy that affect community health centers will change the lives and health care of people in your community.

2. Post your press releases on your website.  Search engines may pick it up there before any news coverage or announcements in the press are printed. Publicity in the digital age can be immediate, and a press release can become news before news media chooses to help make it so.

3. Optimize your press release by using strong key words. It is not enough to build a who-what-when-where-how lead to attract attention anymore.  You must create content that improves search engine results while you provide information. Google Insights is a place to start identifying what key words will achieve good results.

Here's a simple example of how this can work. I entered five key words:
Health Care, Insurance, Back-to-School, 
National Health Center Week, & Medical Home 
Some community health centers are currently gaining official "medical home" designation and it is a term used to describe a comprehensive health care center. Lots of back-to-school giveaways and innoculations occur during National Health Center Week. Many people who are unemployed and out of insurance. Community health centers are a place for them.

When I compared how often these terms show up in search rankings I learned that people search the web for information concerning "insurance" more other terms listed, on the web.  Here you'll see results of comparisons in the "Health" category. I also checked related categories, like "Lifestyles," "Business," and "Local" and though different, confirmed the term most searched was "Insurance." You can narrow the search to your region or Metro area, as well.

This graph tells me health centers should highlight their mission to serve the uninsured, especially during this economic downturn time. Decribing fully why an FQHC can do that OR adding a quote from a clinician, patient or community leader who mentions that, may bring their press release to the attention of readers who need them or reporters who are writing about the economy, or health care, or community health centers.

Google Insights is just one tool community health center PR people can use to optimize and maximize their publicity efforts. There are many more, and many I do not understand yet, but I'm learning.

Are you working on Health Center Week? Did this help?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I mailed this postcard to get out the vote in a run-off election
during my first campaign to serve on the Metro Council in 1999.

This week is my party week.  It has my birthday and wedding anniversary AND my mother's birthday in it. I enjoy presents, family and friends all week long. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend I met in AWRT/American Women in Radio & Television many years ago. We were both presidents of our local chapter back in the '80's and she showed me how to be self-employed.

Back then, we rented P.O. boxes and printed business cards but did not divulge we were home-based professionals. She had a few years' more experience in business than me and, like me, is a Nashville native. She became my model for business marketing, using grassroots connections to stay visable and employed. She introduced me to association, government and non-profit work and she knows how to have a good time.

Now we try have lunch several times a year, and yesterday it had been too long since we last talked face-to-face.  In minutes, we were in full-swing, consulting & affirming each other, sharing stories and background on people we know, in the news and in our lives.

After 2 1/2 hours, we parted, laughing. And she said something that made me pause. "You're proactive," she said.

I do care about my family, my community, society and myself. I like being with other people who feel the same way I do. My work in advocacy, public service, promotions and PR have all been portals to something greater - personal relationships, knowledge, service and fun.
It is a privilege to be proactive.
I'm having a good party-week. Thanks for being a part of it, too. :)
Join the party and leave me a birthday message. I don't think Blogger lets me respond like Wordpress does, so know I appreciate having the chance to connect & for sharing this time with you today. Peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I am not a publicist nor a public relations professional. I do promote messages mostly through educational channels to connect people with issues and elections and then motivate them into action.
I use PR skills and, for my own development and pleasure, I enjoy reading my friend Susan Hart's blog EveryDay PR who has a great business background, website & presence. It was a headline post there that led me to read about the changing nature of PR in the digital age.

I train, coach & activate advocates in community health centers across the Southeast. The second week in August is National Health Center Week when hundreds of CHCs (community health centers) or FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) will highlight their work with promotional activity. In many areas, free health screenings send children back-to-school healthy. Parents come along and receive preventative care to avoid problems with high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity in many cases. I like this annual event at Wewahitchka Medical Center in North Florida.

Elected officials from Congress, state & local governments tour the sites to see how grant funding they approve is used. Community health centers give the nation a huge bang for its buck. Visits are educational, productive and may attract media coverage.  That's why I am posting next Promoting Health Center Week in the Digital Age.

Many health centers are active in social media. Some are using Facebook for patient outreach. Others use them to boost community and employee relations.  Most will generate publicity for Health Center Week. Like most non-profits, some of it will be volunteer coordinated, though most will be directed by staff, in-house. I try to offer as many resources as possible to the people I know in community health centers to help them succeed in message delivery.  As they adopt more use of social media, they need to also start thinking of press releases more as "content" and use them to promote their events beyond traditional press "influencers" or legislative schedulers.

If health centers want to spread the word about their good work & awareness week, there are many news outlets they can use or develop now. Effective advocacy requires effective media strategies.  If this is the first time you've heard National Health Center Week, I've made my case.  If you're working to promote the cause, please read on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It's election season in Nashville, when our Mayor, Vice-Mayor and city Council are campaigning -especially the and those running to fill one of five At-Large seats or a contested race in one of the 34 districts represented on the Metro Council. Drama and turn-out are expected to be light but tension will still be high, not only for those involved in campaigns, but also for those people working the elections.

Election administration is a big job with a lot of moving pieces.  In Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County there are 172 precincts staffed with a minimum of 4 election officials per precinct (larger precincts have more.) Base pay for a long day of work is $145. They all stay the entire time polls are open to the public from 7 am-7 pm as well as witness the opening and closing of their precinct's machines.  At many precincts, poll workers and their officers are political icons in their own right. In the precinct where I vote, our former Councilman of 20+ years runs the show.  Because I know how many people ask me who I think they should vote for, at each election since I served on the Council, I wonder how many people look to him for guidance too. By law he must be neutral in his work as election officer. As a long-time public servant, I'm sure he is.

Poll-watchers help safeguard the election process. I am coordinating a team of non-partisan observers again this election.  Since I first began poll-watching as part of a 2006 League of Women Voter's study on voting integrity, I found that poll-watching was a satisfying, valuable grassroots activity. Tennessee statute defines the role and numbers of poll watchers permitted to observe the election process. It states they may be appointed by each political party, each candidate in a general or primary election, any citizen’s organization interested in a question on the ballot, and any citizen’s organization interested in preserving the purity of elections and in guarding against abuse of the elective franchise. That would be the League of Women Voters - Nashville.

We pin on our official name-tags/credentials, our LWV buttons and become flies on the wall at a sampling of precincts. Volunteers scan their check-lists, looking for all the ways voters can be denied access to elections, influenced, or assisted within the law. We record when there are machinery problems, change or address or provisional voter requests. We like to think that our presence helps create a culture of honesty. In my experience, good people work at the polls. They are also, by law, disproportulately partisan.

Even though county tax-payers fund election operations, state governance and its two primary parties run and operate our elections. Read the statute Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-206 and see for yourself.  Democrats can deny a winner her place on the ballot in a county-funded primary election. Republicans fill the majority of seats in all county election commissions (Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-12-103) & coordinate election decisions, oversee conflicts and purchase voting machines. The General Assembly's majority party appoints them, along with the Elections Coordinator who works for its Secretary of State. Independent voters have no place in the process.

Still, non-partisan participation plays an important role in elections. Where offered, it is a place to serve where winning is not the sum game.  Election integrity is. Election observers count.  If you're interested in getting involved in poll-watching, call or leave a message here. Learn what I mean when I describe the "culture of elections."  It's a large, complex organization with a lot of moving parts. We need to be sharp to keep up with them all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead       

I enjoy small groups, both as a facilitator and a member - in the community, at church and in the field. When people get together in small groups, they talk, hear new ideas and get valuable feedback. In small groups people can test their opinions and their reasons for them within a moderated, supportive setting. Small groups allow us to use new language and feel comfortable with it. Words like "appropriations" "conferees" "evangelization" and "disciples" are put in context and move from mere jargon to real meaning in small group process. Small groups give people a place to grow, learn and change.

In the field I facilitate learning and try to accomplish it within a virtual small group setting.  I coach teams of health center advocates and League of Women Voters state and local leaders on scheduled conference calls each month. It is a challenging, yet still productive way to facilitate feedback and discussion though nothing can top meeting with people face-to-face. Yesterday I enjoyed being a part of A Small Group discussion using Maestro - a software that allows groups to gather, breakout and re-convene, share ideas, material and feedback. You can find a free trial offer on its website if you're interested.

A Small Group has its actual meetings in Cincinnati and I connected with it after reading Community: The Structure of Belonging by the group's founder, Peter Block. I made contact to learn more about its process for improving civic conversations to heal society and practice using it. I joined a phone-linked book discussion first, and then the larger group gathering yesterday. I am excited about joining its monthly small group discussion again. Why?

I want to improve my ability to understand people, why they resist ideas and adopt them. I want to hold "super-powerful conversations." I am inspired by being with others who are not shy to reflect deeply and offer insights that are personal, diverse or challenging. I want to become skilled at asking transformative questions, those that engage listeners & invite them into community or fellowship with me. To found my opinions on fact or first-hand knowledge instead of media reporting, I must know people who live beyond my boundaries. I want to offer help where I think I can and empower people to offer their gifts as well. I want to experience life's richness. I want to strengthen democracy.

The right question can open a super-powerful conversation ...

Video courtesy of A Small Group/Elaine Hanson

Do you believe in the transformative value of small group discussions? Are any small groups transforming you?

Friday, July 8, 2011


I attended President Obama's tweet-up Wednesday. Did you?

It was the biggest chat of all - a national town hall meeting online and on Twitter. All Twitter reports 169,395 tweets were sent to #AskObama and the President added 23,000+ new followers yesterday.

In all, only 8 tweets were answered. Plenty of banter went down. We heard serious answers, humor and candor. The rapport between the Commander-in-Chief and Twitter's Chief Executive Jack Dempsey was geeky as could be expected from the former professor of constitutional law and creator of the premier social media network platform.

Huffpost Humor collected some of the funniest #AskObama tweets sent. Politicians and lobbying groups were present in the twitterstream. Capitol Hill's  Roll Call noted organized tweeting led by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Community Health Centers, the group I represent.

I tweeted because it was the place to push a message forward right now. I am committed to doing what I can keep community health centers strong. In full disclosure, that is my job and I value it. Still, I have worked in the public sector and I know a good government-funded program when I see one. Community health centers were included in the nation's health care reform bill and strategy because they bring the best bang for the buck to the nation. For more than 40 years we've leveraged a federal grant into funding 8000 sites for health care services into communities to serve close to 30 million people across the USA. That's good stewardship. I want to support it.

I tweeted because I wanted to be part of this debut grassroots activity. I wanted my issue to be registered in among those hashtagged. I wanted to get retweeted.  The President built on his experience in grassroots organizing and social media from his (pre) 2008 election work and tapped a network of engaged activists on Wednesday. I expect to see more of this type of outreach. We know our President is progressive. In social media, he continues to blaze the trail.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Whenever I travel I tune into Public Access television
to learn the culture of the community.

In our country free speech and media access are integral parts of our perfect union. So valued, they are protected in our Constitution - the highest statute of the land. It makes sense for a strong community like ours to have high-quality Public, Educational & Government access PEG television stations on the air, available and accountable to the public, because Nashville is a well-run city and well-run cities maximize resources and talent.

This week I helped promote ours: Government access/Metro 3 and the NECAT network/combined arts, education and community access channels. Metro 3 operates within Metro government's IT department. The other three are directed by an appointed board. Metro's Cable Access Television (CATV) special committee held a public hearing to assess the city's need and desire for operating a PEG studio and Comcast channels 3, 9. 10 & 19 since they come to us by way of our joint franchise agreement.

Since Comcast uses our public right of way to conduct business, it provides consideration of several types: broadband width, connectivity, cash and channels. That deal is renewed every decade or so. The CATV special committee negotiates that deal at public's interest's charge. They are mayoral appointees, too.  The city supports PEG TV operating costs that it's sponsors do not. Comcast contributes to capital expenses like technological upgrade currently with $100,000 annually absorbed into the city's coffers and left for admin to direct and fund competing budgets.

I joined local producers, PEG staff (all two of them) and other viewers to give testimony to our love for PEG. No lobbyists, government affairs veepees or concerned columnists were evident. Metro IT & Law were. I hope it helped.

PEG provides a place to build a public soapbox, distribute information, or fill an unmet community educational or entertainment need.  Local journos have a handle on its value. I'm not so sure Nashville's stellar medical, non-profit, political or academic institutions do. If they did they'd be grabbing up the $75 hour prime time placement, airing outreach messages, promoting local learning, B2B training, best practices and original programming to give visitors a glimpse of what we have to offer and citizens a place where learning is free.

Sure you can argue nothing's free. And I will stand firm behind the value of public access television. In an age when media pundits are also candidates, paid by corporations regulated by government, it is only fair that  Comcast give the community access to four channels as part of the price of laying cable, managing a business that runs through our front yards.

Years ago, I was a production volunteer at WDCN-Channel 8. I ran camera and chyron for Action Auction and membership drives. I only quit as my family grew. Then, I created Parent Talk, a local weekly radio show and interviewed experts on family-related issues and took call-ins.  I kept that sponsored and aired for four years.  Now I plan to become a producer, promote civic engagement and examine issues on NECAT.  With such a grassroots tool at hand (and an undergrad degree in radio-tv-film) I am itching to take up a new opportunity. Programs are already in development. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


A few weeks ago I participated in my first special interest candidate endorsement deliberation. Because I am not active in partisan politics, not a union member nor even a resident of an area with a neighborhood association, I get involved in issue focused grassroots work. The issue bringing us all together for almost four hours one rainy Saturday morning was keeping our local government neighborhood-friendly in its policies and priorities.

It was an agonizing process and invigorating, too. 18 people from neighborhoods all over Nashville discussed the answers submitted on candidates' surveys, how they had voted, how they'd expressed an intent to vote. Experienced advocates made presentable arguments for swaying standards, upholding them and just showing some love. On several occasions, civility trumped emotional votes. At least once someone pulled rank and had a temper tantrum.

When I ran for Metro Council, on the advice of my campaign manager I did not seek traditional endorsements from political parties, city municipal and service workers, educators, business or trades associations. I sought only the endorsement of a noted womens group. This strategy helped me win my race and modestly fund it. It kept me out of big board interviews, special interest questionnaires and the relationships they help shape at the front end of a term of office. It kept me authentic & independent. Lucky for me, my grandfather was a Metro policeman, my dad an East High grad, my mom went to West, and their friends and many lobbyists people helped me catch up soon after I was elected.

I confess I do not consider endorsements I see published in the paper as I form my voting decisions. If I were a member of an associated group, I probably would. For me the value of the endorsement process is the time people give, filling out and reviewing surveys, building consensus for a group recommendation, sending emails & snail mail to assure all members are involved with a vote. It is the work that builds a nation. Wherever caucuses, co-ops, and homeowner's associations deliberate policy and regulations, they build platforms for candidates to stand on and activists to support.

Grassroots activity is democratic and creative. It is the foundation of good government and a healthy society. Do you enjoy grassroots activity? Of what type? .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ultimate grassroots experience

I campaigned with Seanna Brandmeir-candidate for Metro Council District 22 this week.

If you are looking for the ultimate grassroots advocacy experience, volunteer to go door-to-door with a candidate or to promote or support an issue. Not only will it give you a feel for the pulse of the people, it will link you with them as only face-to-face meetings do.

Here are some ways I get good results when I canvas a street.

  1. I take someone with me who has ties with that area. It takes some time, but it's worth it to ask around and find someone who meets the bill.  Someone who lives on the street, who grew up there, went to school or is cousins of someone from the area. That way, when I introduce myself, I introduce my friend and say: do you know so-and-so, he grew up over there and we're here because ...." Suddenly we're one big family. Asking for support just comes up naturally.
  2.  I stand back on the porch far enough that people can easily see who I am, and have campaign material visable, at the ready, in my hand. I like to drop back onto the steps, so I can step forward and deliver my card and message.
  3. I always quit before dark. Even though that's important for my own safety, I also know people don't want to open their doors after dark.  Sometimes it's hard to quit when I'm working a list but there is no need to push this one. Get in the car and go home.
  4. I avoid disagreements and debates. Door-to-door is a numbers game, so keep talk short and move on fast.
  5. I smile a lot and stay clear of pets. 
I wish I could report that I always go for the close and ask point-blank: May I count on your vote? - my favorite phrase when I'm on a roll.  Sometimes I just say appreciative things. I have rarely felt unwelcome or imposing. Generally, it is energizing to meet people who are interested in knowing more too. Door-to-door canvasing is a basic grassroots strategy that works for outreach, sales and advocacy. I confess I'm just a modest financial contributor but I'm a willing campaign volunteer. Politics at the grassroots level really brings the process home.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Starting out

I confess, I like to have an opinion. I'm not shy to state it when I have one and was surprised to one day realize not everyone wants to hear it when I do. That's true. Growing up, everyone around me had an opinion. I learned to hear them out and usually, I would jump in and have a say. No one was labled stupid and frequently people would cry. It was a lively discussion group - my family, around the table.

I like civic participation because everyone gets to have a say. I am fortunate to have a job doing it. I like to help others develop a civic voice, so I like being a grassroots organizer. I work with a group of advocates for community health centers, and share staff calls with the federal affairs office of the national association. They are all top-notch. I get to register voters, call on Congress, coach people into contacting their Congressmen/women too.

I speak at public hearings when needed. I write letters to the editor sometimes. I held a public office for two terms and enjoy knowing local politicos, activists and staffers in government. I like to influence policy. I think everyone should.

Today a Pew study stated Facebook users are far more likely to be politically engaged. In my advocacy work, I'm trying to find ways to engage people in social media. Today I posted a message on Facebook - on my profile and one other that I manage professionally -
Remember, Sunday is Father's Day...What interests did your dad inspire you to discover?
My dad inspired me to consider public service & feel confident speaking my mind.

It takes some courage to have a voice. I am pushing my limits, wanting to speak out just a little farther here. How can I encourage others to adopt new practices and confidence if I don't push myself to do that too?