Message from the Chair: The New Washtenaw County Democratic Party

Posted Mar, 1, 2017

In the days since November 8th, 2016, people across the country are rising up to say that Pr*sident Trump does NOT represent our values as Americans. Nowhere is that more true than in Washtenaw County. Since election day, our mailing list has grown by nearly 400 people and our general membership meetings have gone from being attended by 40 or 50 people to over 200 at our last meeting where Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon said that the WCDP is the model for County Democratic Parties in our state:

Washtenaw County Democrats are fired up and ready to #resist.

On Saturday, January 28th, the WCDP Executive Board met for a 7+ hour strategic planning retreat. The ideas that came out of that meeting are transformational and we are poised to make enormous strides both in Washtenaw County and beyond. The common theme during the meeting was an “83 County Strategy”. We are not content to simply organize in Washtenaw County. We know that we must expand our reach, share our vision and resources, and evangelize to spread our best practices to other County Parties (and to learn from them, as well.)

When I first ran for Chair, I did so on an “Activist Slate”. The dream I had for the WCDP to become a force for activism is becoming a reality due to the hard work, passion, and dedication of our current and past Board members.

In addition to our four officers, our Board is comprised of 12 co-Vice Chair positions. Around each of these positions we are building teams of people to help them accomplish the goals set out for them in our bylaws. You can sign up to be on one of these teams HERE. And, of course, if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our email list HERE.

Here are some highlights of what is happening with each group and what they, with YOUR help, will be focusing on in the days and months to come:

Membership TeamCo-Vice Chairs Susan Baskett and Anne Brown
The Membership team is focused on both increasing the number of active members in the WCDP as well as ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our members. They will work closely with our Outreach and Programs teams (among others) to ensure that people are getting signed up and engaged. They are working to create reusable WCDP name badges available for a nominal fee. Finally, they will be encouraging people to become members of the Michigan Democratic Party. The reason for this is two-fold. First, we get some of the proceeds from memberships when people become members of the MDP. Second, in order to vote at WCDP meetings and conventions, you must be a member of the MDP which, in turn, makes you a member of the WCDP if you live in Washtenaw County.

CommunicationsCo-Vice Chairs Satish Ramade and Julie Baker
The Communications team has several items on their list. First, they are going to do a makeover of our website. This includes the exciting and important development of Spanish and Arabic language versions so that as many Washtenaw Democrats as possible are able to access and read it. Second, they will begin to do profiles of members, volunteers, and elected officials so that we start to know more about the people who are getting things done. They will also be working on developing a regular flow of tools for activism, as well as calls to action, in concert with Legislative Programs, etc., and create a plan for disseminating them via email, social media, and our website. The Communications team is largely the group responsible for building our “brand” and that will be a common thread running through everything they do.

Social MediaCo-Vice Chairs Jeremy Glick and Allie Van Zoeren
The Social Media team will work closely with the Communications team (along with others, of course) to make sure our message gets out through our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter account, and our future Instagram account. But just putting the message out on these platforms is not enough if they aren’t seen by large numbers of people. That requires encouraging others to share our social media posts. To that end, their team will be working to increase the visibility of our posts themselves. In addition, the Social Media team will be doing trainings for WCDP members on how to best maximize their use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help push that even further.

ProgramsCo-Vice Chairs Mary Thiam-Hall and Ashley Hall
Our programming has improved greatly over the past two years. However, we want to take this to the next step. The Programs team is planning to hold at least TWO programs per month instead of just the one program each month at our General Membership meetings. They will be working with other groups throughout the County to make sure we’re offering relevant and current programming content that is responsive to the interests and needs of our members and prospective members. This will include programs related to issue advocacy, voter education, potential candidate education, and candidate forums. We understand that it’s not what we say we’re about that defines us as a County Party. Rather, it’s what we DO that truly defines us and making sure we are offering quality and timely programs is a crucial part of that.

FundraisingCo-Vice Chairs Bill Worzel and Kelly Tebay
We understand that Democratic and progressive groups are constantly begging you for money and we try very hard not to be part of that noise in your email inbox and on your phone. However, we simply cannot accomplish our goals without adequate funding. As you probably know by now, we now have a permanent office so, in addition to paying for all of the things the other 11 groups are doing, we must also pay rent and utilities along with purchasing supplies and services to keep the office open and up & running. This means that Bill & Kelly (a former fundraising staffer for the MDP) and their team will be incorporating an element of fundraising into everything we do (i.e using messaging and legislative outcomes to drive fundraising asks to specific groups and people to support our efforts financially.) Again, we don’t like having to ask for money but we will never be able to accomplish our goals without it and we know that Democrats in Washtenaw County are generous and supportive of what we are doing.

OutreachCo-Vice Chairs Kathy Wyatt and David Greco
The WCDP leadership knows that, unless we deliberately reach out to other groups to form relationships and partnerships with them, we’ll never achieve our goal of being a party that’s responsive to everyone. The goal of the Outreach team is to engage in the process with a new and determined focus. Our Outreach team will be meeting with members and leaders of issue groups, ethnic groups, and groups of a wide array of demographics to start this important coalition-building work.

Precinct OrganizingCo-Vice Chairs Catherine Daligga and Jane Forman
The Precinct Organizing Committee (POC) is the model on which all of the other teams are based. This is the team that has been around the longest and it has expanded its influence and effectiveness in ways we only dreamed about in the early days. The POC has three components. The first is Team Precinct Delegates. This team’s focus is on increasing the number of elected Precinct Delegates in Washtenaw County. However, it’s more than that: it’s ensuring that the people in Precinct Delegate positions are ACTIVE and fulfilling their roles as the bedrock, grassroots organizers of the Democratic Party. This team will also oversee the work of the WCDP County Committee. The second is Team Statewide. This team will work with County Parties throughout the state as well as the MDP itself to spread our knowledge, resources, and best practices so the successes that we are achieving in Washtenaw County can begin to spread throughout Michigan. The last team is Team Data. This team has developed and is continuing to refine a database of our local activists – people who have proven they are willing to show up and make calls or knock doors or do some other activity to further the goals of the Democratic Party. Additionally, they will eventually be creating a local voter database to help us with our Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts in election years. Finally, the POC has given themselves the ambitious goal of talking to at least 50% of our identified Democratic voters this year at their doorsteps, at house parties, and at events to get them informed and engaged.

Resolutions, By-laws, and PolicyCo-Vice Chairs Eli Savit and Denise Kirchoff
Our bylaws are there to help guide our efforts as well as to provide direction when problems or questions arise. While our current bylaws are functional, there are still some major flaws and areas for improvement. Over the coming year this team will be working to fix the known flaws, revisit our resolutions and endorsement policies and rules, and to ensure that the document is both accurate and useful as a guide when we need it, all while ensuring transparency. In addition, this team will oversee the creation of resolutions, assisting those wishing to submit them in getting them into the right format and introducing them properly.

Legislative ProgramsCo-Vice Chairs Justin Hodge and Solomon Rajput
Once a position held by a staff person from Congressional or legislative offices, this team has developed into one of the main centers of energy and excitement within the WCDP. The main focus of this group is to turn WCDP members into citizen activists and citizen lobbyists. Working with state and Congressional elected officials, they are developing tools to learn about impending legislation and policy and then creating easy ways for our members to reach out our elected officials to make their voices heard. This will be through regular phonebanking (they are currently holding two phonebanks per week at multiple locations throughout the County), letters to the editor, and other means. Because our County enjoys a largely Democratic group of lawmakers (with a few notable exceptions), this team will also be reaching out to other County Parties to help engage them and to use our capacity to help their members become more involved as citizen activists and citizen lobbyists, as well. This is where we will have our biggest impact. Our primary focus is on the state legislature because this is where we have the most knowledge of upcoming legislation and, more importantly, where we can have the biggest impact. However, they will also be working to #resist Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues in Washington, DC, too.

VisibilityCo-Vice Chairs Melinda McCabe and Amanda Mayer
Our Visibility team is in charge of making sure that the WCDP has a visible presence at as many local events as possible. Festivals, fairs, and other events are all places for us to reach out to people in the community to let them know we’re here and to get them involved. This team is also in charge of selling Democratic swag – buttons, bumperstickers, t-shirts, etc. – a source of income for the WCDP.

Social EventsCo-Vice Chairs Steven Kwasny and Jelani McGadney
We can’t be serious and hardworking ALL the time, right?! The Social Events team is tasked with coming up with ways for us all to get together to have some fun with a purpose. Picnics, bowling nights, cocktail mixers – these and other things will let us share relaxed, enjoyable times together and build us as a Democratic family. They have some VERY fun things planned that we’ll be rolling out soon.

Administrative AffairsCo-Vice Chairs Susie Catherman and Nathan Longhofer
The Administrative Affairs team maintains the calendar on our website, a central place to learn about all things progressive and Democratic in our area. In addition, they will be overseeing the running of our new office, making sure it has all the resources it needs and is staffed and available for use by our community partners.

This is your NEW Washtenaw County Democratic Party. It’s being led by a diverse group of talented, passionate Democrats and we encourage YOU to get involved. If you’d like to join one of these teams, please click HERE to get involved.

In solidarity,
Chris Savage, Chair
chrissavage123@sbcglobal.net
734-358-9276

*Donald Trump is the largest loser of the popular vote in history to become the President of the United States of America.