Does One Voice Matter?

(I haven’t published any political blogs before, but I found my experience this week so empowering I had to share.)

Does one vote count? Is one voice heard? It’s easy to be discouraged but heed the event that occurred this very week in the state of Washington.

LAST WEEK: THE BAD NEWS

Washington has an open-records act that requires elected officials to conduct their business on behalf of the voters publicly. (Perhaps that’s why they are called “public” officials?) For decades the legislature has maintained that they are exempt, but last September media outlets sued the Washington legislature to obtain records. A county judge ruled that the legislature did have to abide by the open-records act. Over a period of 48 hours, the legislature passed a bill exempting themselves from most of the act. In particular they voted that legislators could withhold their calendars, emails, and any harassment complaints. This was passed by 84% in the Senate and 86% in the House—without any floor debate or public hearings.

The Governor said he would decide whether to sign the bill or to just let it sit on his desk for a few days when it would automatically become law because of his inaction. He saw no point in vetoing the bill as the vote had been “veto-proof.”

THIS WEEK: THE GOOD NEWS

Newspapers across the state printed editorials on their front pages condemning the action by the legislature. My local paper, The Seattle Times, had a full-page spread with the pictures and contact information for every legislator and the governor. I contacted both of my representatives, my senator, and the governor.

The Governor’s Office received over 20,000 phone calls, letters, and emails in just a few days. The outcry was unprecedented. Apparently, the legislators must have had a similar response. (Who knows exactly, since they don’t release information about their activities?) By the end of this week many of them contacted the governor and said they thought the bill should be rethought.

The Governor vetoed the bill and the legislature did not take a second vote to override. A task force, including the media, will be established to work through another version of the bill within the next nine months. It will apply to the legislature in 2019. (Who knew public records law was so complicated?)

THE MESSAGE TO TAKE TO HEART:

Yes, 20,000 responses are a lot. Yes, it was a larger number of responses than the Governor expected, but consider this: A response of 20,000 people represents less than ½ of one percent of the voters in the State of Washington. The voice of those 20,000, however, was loud, swift, and persistent.

Take heart, women who are pushing for more change. Take heart, young voters who are becoming politically active. Organize, move forward, persist. One voice can be heard when joined with just a few others.

Susana Martinez – Governor of New Mexico

          Although liberal organizations decry Susana Martinez’ policies, her approval rating in the state of New Mexico has never fallen below 60%. Even 44% of state Democrats, the party she left to join the Republicans, give her a favorable rating.

SUSANA MARTINEZ PHOTOSusana Martinez was the first female governor of New Mexico (a position she still holds) and the first Latina governor in United States history. In her youth she set her sights on leadership and academic achievement. She served as student body president in high school and graduated as an honors student.

In college she studied criminal justice, while working for her father. Martinez’ father had been a Golden Gloves boxer in the Marines and later a deputy sheriff. Her mother was an office assistant. With an investment of $400, her parents built a security firm, her mother doing the books at the kitchen table at night, and Susana patrolling the parking lot at Catholic Church bingos. After completing her law degree, she moved to New Mexico where she was elected District Attorney in Doña Ana County. She was re-elected three times, running unopposed the last time. Twice named New Mexico’s “Prosecutor of the Year” her primary focus was on cases in involving public corruption and child abuse.

As governor her priorities are: education, balancing the budget, transparency and ethics in government, and safety. She has received a number of honors:

Heart magazine named her Woman of the Year for her efforts on behalf of children (2008).

Hispanic Business Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her efforts to reduce taxes, create jobs, promote business and improve the state’s fiscal condition (2011)

Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world (2013)

The Governor also supports veteran’s causes and encourages movie and TV production companies to hire veterans for all productions in New Mexico. Her work for children and literacy continues.

LEARN MORE:

View the Governor’s website at: http://www.governor.state.nm.us

For photos of the Governor at work: http://governor.state.nm.us/Photos.aspx

To see her speech at the Republican Convention in 2012:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjbtxupVo6I

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Which values learned from your parents guided your future choices?