With all of the wonderful, shocking, unjust or entertaining things that are quickly happening in the news these days, it is the perfect time to begin to think about… dare I say it… POLITICS.
Whether you are celebrating the local events or quality of life in your community, or despising the headlines of late, it all boils down to your role in maintaining, changing, or correcting what’s going on around you. “How,” might you ask? By taking those first few steps of action towards having your voice heard. Your actions (voting, attending meetings, meeting with representatives, joining party affiliated organizations with common goals, etc.) lead to what makes your neighborhood one of quality and a place to raise your family with pride.
“How,” again you might be thinking? “How can I possibly have any impact on the politics in my world?” The answer really is much simpler than you may think. Here are some suggestions:
First of all, are you eligible to vote (18 and a legal resident)? Secondly, are you registered to vote? If you need to check, you can check from the comforts of your comfy couch: online. You can check through the website: usa.gov or voterlookup.elections.ny.gov. A few clicks, and you have all of your voting information. You may even learn that you need to make a few changes or updates (like you moved and forgot to update your new address)! And!!!! Do you actively vote… in all elections?
Ok… so now you know you can vote. Did you also happen to make note of your election district? If not, no worries, go back to the same website, a couple of clicks and a scroll or two, and you can learn all about who your representatives are, where to vote, and even who is running in the next election (not all the excitement happens in November BTW! Did you know that?).  Side note, there are elections fast approaching — June 22 is our local primary election!
Do you have concerns about your roads, local infrastructure, community relations? How about labor relations, or just your everyday quality of life? The environment? That one way street with a stop sign at the end where no one ever really stops! ARGH!
You can begin by visiting the community, town, civic, or party-affiliated websites, spending time getting to know your candidates, and joining in on meetings where your ED (Election District) candidates of interest to you will be present. Get to know the people who will be representing you. Ask questions. Write to the elected officials and let them know what is important to you and what they can do to help you reach your goals. Remember you can get their addresses (email too) on the USA.gov website.
But… maybe you are a bit stuck on getting to know what the candidates support. You may even wish to go one step further and join a campaign! I know, I know, there is so little time and even the thought of the word politics, sends your body into a slight spasm. (I can relate!).
Might I then suggest that the next steps to consider be to have a short talk with yourself (might be a little easier having spent the past year in isolation) and identify the things that are most important to you and your way of life. What are your values and interests? For example, the dog park needs to be better tended to (or larger to hold more dogs); the town streets are looking especially lovely this year (you would like that to continue). You may wish to listen to the town budget talks to see if town worker wages will be increased or cut! If you have thoughts about schools, then sit in on Board of Education meetings. You may always find resources and a wealth of information by attending Southampton Democratic Committee – SHDEMS.org meetings. Check out the website! It will let you know who is running, what issues they support and what their priorities are, as well. The website is filled with supports!
You will learn that “politics” starts with an observation or experience, leading to a conversation and ultimately to an action. Whether it be it to challenge the representatives to do better or to inform them of their impact on your community, let them know how the work they are doing is impacting you and your neighbors.
After a few “sit-ins” on meetings that discuss the priorities of your community, you may begin to make the natural transition to becoming more involved! Who knows where this might lead? You might find yourself running for a local position, yes, you!
Ok, ok, so you have more specific questions or comments in mind? Then you should contact SHDEMS.org and ask them. Better yet, join the Southampton Democratic Club (www.shdemclub.com) and you can have regular access to all of the things that make you tick, or tock! Remember, time is growing near. The June 22 Primaries are nearly here!
Photography: thetimesweekly.com, oxy.edu, 27east.com

 

 


About Denise Merchant
Denise L. Merchant is a retired NYS Education Department public school administrator, speech language pathologist and the founder of Seeds of Advocacy, LLC. She has been a member of the Southampton community for greater than a decade and is currently holding executive positions in multiple town and local equity organizations. On these committee organizations, she chairs or co-chairs the education departments.
“‘Nise,” is how she is affectionately called by the preschoolers in the Wuneechanunk Shinnecock Preschool.  There, she is the current Interim Director of Education and acting advocate and liaison for school aged students in their pursuit of equity in education (both general and special education). She recently joined the Southampton Democratic Club to enhance peoples’ rights to a fair and just democracy through a ground-works approach.