Get Out That Vote!

Get Out That Vote!

Thirsty Thursday blog post reminding you to VOTE! #knowledgeresponsibly

The deadline to vote for the primary election is August 1st. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop it in a nearby dropbox!

Your vote really matters – in state and local elections just a few hundred votes can make the difference. If you live in Seattle, you’ll be helping to narrow down a crowded mayoral primary from 21 candidates down to 2! Plus, voting to determine whether we should create and fund a cultural access program expanding students and underserved populations’ access to arts, science, and heritage programming in King County, as well as voting on a county Executive and city councilmembers.

The Bus was out this weekend doing our part to make sure young people are turning out for elections large and small.

In order to make politics fun and accessible, we meet young folks where they are – and sometimes that means music festivals! This past weekend the Bus brought out Fellows, interns, and a ton of volunteers to canvass at Capitol Hill Block Party, making sure young folks at the festival were registered to vote and reminding them to turn in their ballots.

In the booth we had a station to make your own buttons, candy, and make-your-own-meme cutouts. While people learned about the Bus and had some fun with us, we made sure their voter registration was up to date, reminded them to turn their ballots in, and engaged them around voting access issues with a survey gauging public support for several strategies that can make voting easier, such as pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, automatic voter registration, pre-paid postage, same-day voter registration and language accessibility. By gathering information on the survey, we hope that we can impact the voting systems and make it more accessible. *And it turns out emojis are a very effective tool of measurement everyone can relate to.

Many people consider politics to be something serious and unapproachable, and we want to break down barriers that prevent people from fully participating in our democracy. We can express our values, achieve our goals, and make our communities better through voting. While we tackle serious issues, we still want to make sure people associate politics with something fun, something they want to be a part of.

Here I ask again, please get out to vote! Voting matters to you. Voting matters to the community. Voting matters to the entire city and state. Let’s make our voices heard!

This blog post was written by the Bus’s Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.

Introducing the Bustice League!

Introducing the Bustice League!

This week’s Hella Bus Blog Thirsty Thursday blog post comin’ at ya! #knowledgeresponsibly

We’ve got big news coming out of Buslandia, a place where dreams come true. Do you dream of 100% youth voter turnout? Do you want to befriend other rad civically engaged young people? Do you wish you could be a real-life superhero? Whatever your dream is, we’re proud to announce The Bustice League™, our brand spankin’ new volunteer program created with the stuff that dreams are made of.

Members of the Bustice League are the super-volunteers that help our voter registration and campaign work succeed. Super-volunteers commit to a certain number of volunteer hours per month. The opportunities are varied and endless–you could register voters at Bumbershoot, testify at city council, create a zine, or help out around the office. Joining the Bustice League gets you access to #firstdibs at music festival volunteer shifts, bus swag, an opportunity to build up your organizing skills, and of course, a once in a lifetime chance to change the world.

The Bustice League is an extension of our leadership development programs, our seasonal internship and summer fellowship. The Bustice League is open to people of all ages and experience levels. Have you already completed our fellowship program and want to get back on the Bus? Join the Bustice League! Did you just find out about us at Seattle Pride and want to learn more about volunteering? Join the Bustice League! We’ll have fun and meaningful ways for everyone to join.

As staff members, we commit to investing in you and your growth as a young political organizer with a passion for justice. We’ll also plan regular social events (happy hour, anyone?) for Bustice League members.
If you like what you’ve read so far and want to become a defender of democracy, an advocate for justice, and a mighty political organizer, you should join the Bustice League! Come to our official launch party at the Washington Bus office in Pioneer Square on July 6 from 6-8 pm. We’ll bring the snacks, and you can bring your friends. Deal? Check out the Facebook event here and don’t forget to RSVP! If you can’t come to the launch party, but want to learn more about joining the Bustice League, shoot me an e-mail at sophia@washingtonbus.org.

This blog post was written by Sophia Hoffacker, the Bus’s own Field Coordinator.

Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Okay Washington, now that our true favorite seasons has arrived….

we have some important things on our to-do list. After you figure out your fall look and come to terms with that reading list you’ve been neglecting all summer, we need to talk about about a v. important holiday coming up.

No, no, you still have months to figure out your Halloween costume.

I want to talk to you about National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). NVRD is exactly the kind of holiday it sounds like. It’s an opportunity to register to vote, update your registration and remind your friends, family and community to do the same. You may have heard about one of the Bus’ favorite holidays from our friend President Obama. But maybe you haven’t and you’re wondering why we need a holiday to encourage folks to register to vote. If that’s the case, you’ve come to just the pithy blog to fill you in.

In 2014 alone there were 1,454,738 Washingtonians that were of voting age that didn’t register to vote and weren’t able to participate in last year’s election. Of course voting excludes our immigrant, refugee, undocumented and formerly incarcerated friends, family and communities. But for those that do have access to register to vote, we want to make sure that no one misses an opportunity to participate in an election in Washington State. We all do better when everyone can participate in our democracy. We have so many important decisions ahead of us as a state: funding for public education, moving climate justice forward, banning reparative therapy, and addressing the housing accessibility crisis. You know, just to name a few small things we need to tackle.

Every year in the state of Washington, 96,000 people turn 18. That’s a lot of people who need to register to vote.

If you care about those things or are moved by our impressive .gif collection, knowledge of pop and sports ball things, there are a few things you can do to help us spread the word on NVRD:

  1. Take a look at the Bus’ Facebook page and share our posts. Be sure to use the hashtag #celebrateNVRD
  2. Spread the online voter registration link via social media. In the state of Washington you can register online. Fancy, huh? Check it out: registerinwa.org

You can check out what’s happening in Washington state on National Voter Registration day here on this handy map. If you have any questions or want to get involved send me an email at contact@washingtonbus.org.

On Community Leaders and Heroes

On Community Leaders and Heroes

Gordon Hirabayashi (acttheatre.org)

On Tuesday night, we went to the ACT Theater to see Hold These Truths, a play about Gordon Hirabayashi, one of the few people who resisted against Japanese internment during WWII. The show forced us to confront some uncomfortable truths – the failure of our country to uphold its values, the gross hypocrisy of our government leaders, and the human toll of all of this on Japanese Americans. It was about principles, and more importantly, the courage of the man who maintained them, even in the face of extreme difficulty and injustice. The play allowed me to reflect on my own values, and whether I would uphold them during such difficult times.

Donnie Chin (The International Examiner)

Recently, the International District lost a beloved community leader and hero, Donnie Chin. Much like Hirabayashi, Donnie was a man of values. Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to making his community safe. Donnie was the founder and director of the International District Emergency Center – a community-run safety patrol. He spent his nights watching for crime in the neighborhood, and providing emergency care to those who waiting for an ambulance. “He was like a real life superhero,” Sonny Nguyen recalled, as he told a story in which Donnie helped evacuate an entire building from a fire before the Seattle Fire Department arrived. Last week, we saw more than two hundred community members come together in a barbecue celebrating his life. I was moved by the many lives he has touched, and the compassion and kindness that he embodied.

As we come to a close to our time in Seattle, we have certainly learned a lot about the issues that the city faces. However, more importantly, we have learned about the incredible people and non-profit organizations that stand up to these issues. The work that these organizations do is not easy, but at the end of the day, their passion and courage help sustain their causes even during the most challenging of times.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

On July 22nd, Seattle celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Westlake. The first part of the event was devoted to the recognition of donors, sponsors, volunteers, and speakers, and the second half was devoted to a rally.

Over ten organizations volunteered, and the event was sponsored by a number of corporations, government affiliates, and independent donors (I.e. SPD, City Council, the City of Bellevue, Starbucks, Boeing-which-did-not-show-up, etc.).

The Executive Director of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC), Emilio Vela Jr., stated that his favorite part of the event was recognizing those affected by disabilities—he pointed to one fellow stating, “This guy right here was one of the first guys to go to college in Kansas and make a case for accessible entrances, transportation, and walkways.” He further argued, “disability rights are civil rights… it’s about independent living; working and residing where xtyou want, using public transportation, whether you’re deaf or blind or a wheelchair user.”

One speaker evocatively explained how she had developed a debilitating, “invisible,” disability, or a crippling anxiety disorder, and was able to benefit from the ADA  in ways previously thought unimaginable. She claimed, “If it were not for the ADA, [the act] which told my family and my friends, and frankly me, that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of, I would still be governed by my disability today.” Instead, she is making a difference in Washington State, by servicing those living with disabilities, and engaging folks on the importance of the ADA across the state. Her story dually speaks to the ADA’s protections for those living with mental illness.

Several politicians spoke to the importance of the ADA. Patty Murray, a Washington senator strongly in support of disability rights at both the state and national levels, left an audio message. She stated, “We have so much to celebrate today, but we must also think about what more can be done.” Murray is working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) so that students with disabilities have the opportunity to “work and grow and thrive,” in an increasingly inclusive environment.

On a beautiful sunny day, the ADA was celebrated in a crowded city square—visible, potent, and necessary.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit Plymouth Housing Group, an organization that serves some of the most disadvantaged homeless adults in Seattle. During this visit, we learned about the organization’s unique approach towards tackling homelessness.

Plymouth operates under a “housing first” philosophy, which focuses first on bringing people off the streets and into stable and permanent homes. This means that individuals who often have no other options for housing – drug addicts, the chronically ill, and the disabled – can find a home at Plymouth. By lowering the barriers to housing, and accepting those who are struggling the most, Plymouth acknowledges the challenges that come with homelessness and aims to tackle the issue at its core.

What struck me the most was the extent to which Plymouth went to try to make their tenants feel at home. As part of our visit, we helped make welcome posters and calendars for new residents, to provide a more welcoming and comfortable touch to their new homes. The idea is that by prolonging their stay, tenants will have greater opportunities to seek the supportive services that they need and build towards a better and more stable life.

Image taken from www.plymouthhousing.org

So far, the hard work seems to have paid off. According to Winona Caruthers, the Community Engagement & Housing Stability Coordinator, nearly 98% of tenants remain with Plymouth after one year. Today, Plymouth is serving more than 1000 formerly-homeless people in its facilities.

However, there is still much work to be done. The problem of homelessness remains rampant in Seattle, with nearly 4000 people still living on the streets – a 20% increase from 2014. At Plymouth, waitlists extend through several years, and have even closed. This poses many questions: Are we taking the right approach? Are we tackling homelessness at its source? What is the source? The city and non-profits certainly have a complex problem to address. Whatever the answer may be, volunteering at Plymouth has shown me the value of incorporating kindness and humanity into this solution.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

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