Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 5 of ?

How do you stand up and talk in front of a crowd? Some people fear it more than death. It's okay to come to the Dalton Township meeting and not stand up, but if you want to stand up and say something then this article will help you.

First, some inspiration. Then we'll dive into specific options.

One of the most important things to realize about a local government meeting like this is that you are not making a presentation. You won't be graded. You are there to say what you have to say. I'm going to put a few of my speeches from the last couple of months here. You do not have to stand up and speak like this. To a large extent you can't. You will only have three minutes during the public comment section. (Notice though, that even these speeches are only about 5 minutes long.)

A couple of weeks ago I requested a 5 to 10 minute spot on the schedule and the township would not give it to me. That's because they don't want to hear what we have to say. That's also why it's important to say it.

If you are speaking you will have to identify yourself. That's okay. If you're just at the meeting to be there then you do not even have to give them your name. Don't let them bully you. Remain calm, remain civil, our government is specifically designed to resolve these types of issues. It's part of what has made the United States the greatest country in history as far as prosperity is concerned. We have been able to protect our economic, political, and personal freedoms from this type of government corruption and tyranny by following the process necessary to remove the corrupted officials from positions of power. We are doing the same thing here.

Here's me talking about skydiving and getting a little push. Notice how I don't rush.

Here's me talking about grief. Notice how I don't speak quietly or sheepishly. I speak like I want people to hear me.

Here's me talking about alligator wrestling and the meaning of life. Notice that I don't apologize, I just jump in a say what I have to say. I know what I want to say, I know it's important, and I say it. (The speech is only the first 5 minutes or so.)

Speaking at a township meeting is a bit different than these environments, but those lessons still apply, so use them. If you get nervous or stuck, pause for a moment, don't apologize or worry about it, and then continue. It's okay.

There are probably two types of people that are going to speak. 1) People that have something specific to say. 2) People that want to say something, people that want their voice to be heard and are tired of being the silent majority, but don't know what to say. I will tell you how to handle either situation. Let's address the people that want to be heard but don't know what to say first.

It's hard to feel like you're making a difference if you're a silent observer. I get that. First of all, the people that just show up do make a difference. Second of all, the voters make a difference. They decide who is in office, and who gets removed from office.

You have 3 minutes to talk. The township will request that as few as people as possible talk. They do not have the ability to silence you though. That would be illegal. Now, we know they have no problem with breaking the law, but I don't think they will in this particular case. If you want to talk, you can. Saying that, you don't have to use all of your 3 minutes. It sounds like a short amount of time, 3 minutes, but when you stand up in front of a room of people it can seem long for some people. So, don't feel like you need to say a certain amount.

If you want the politicians to know that you're there and you don't approve of what they've done, you can say that. You can say, "I was aware of what's been happening, but I was afraid to stand up and speak before. Now, I've found the courage to do just that, and I'm here to say that I will no longer tolerate corruption in Dalton Township." Bam! That's it. It will only take a few seconds. If other people have said the same thing, or something close to it, that's okay. You have the right to let them know that you're there, that you're watching, that you make a difference. And to let others know that they're not alone.

You can say, "I had no idea what was happening in Dalton. I wish I did before. But, now that I do know what's been happening I feel a moral obligation to stand up and say that it's wrong. And I, for one, demand change." That's perfect.

I, Jeff Martin, will be presenting a list of grievances with a call for the resignation of Tony Barnes. A reasonable person in Tony Barnes' position would Resign, Tony Barnes will not Resign. I think a Recall will probably happen in the near future. Even if that doesn't get approved, we can still Replace him in the 2020 election. I will sign this list of grievances and call for his resignation. It's included in my last article. If other Dalton citizens feel called to sign it, then I will be at the meeting early so that they can do that. You can stand up and say that you support that. For instance, "After hearing about what the township has done under the leadership of Tony Barnes, I support the Citizens' Resolution that calls for his resignation." That's great.

You can word these in any way that feels comfortable to you. You can write them down and read them if you want. If there is something specific that you want to say, then I suggest using a note. When you read it try to stand up straight, speak clearly, and speak loud. Don't apologize for what you have to say. I don't use notes because I don't like it, but in this particular case I will be reading the document that lists the grievances and the call for resignation.

Even if you don't sign the Dalton Township Citizens' Resolution you can still call for the resignation of Tony Barnes, or someone else, or all of the board members if you feel that is appropriate.

One more important thing before we jump into what to do if you have something specific to say; clap for people. People are afraid to stand up and speak, people are afraid to speak out against the immoral actions taken by the township, and people are afraid of being alone. I will personally clap for every person that stands up and speaks. I have had multiple people message me and tell me that they are glad someone is finally doing something about this. They were afraid because they thought they were alone, but as it turns out there are a lot of people that have felt like they were alone. They're not.

Alright, if you have something to say, how do you do that?

You only have 3 minutes, but that's plenty of time if you know what you're going to say. Let's go over three basic ways to structure what you want to say.

My favorite is like this: 1) Ask a powerful question, or give a powerful statement, and pause. 2) Jump directly into your story, tell it. Speak to people like you are speaking to them in a loud conversation. 3) Make your point by coming back around and talking about that first question or statement.

I use that framework in all three speeches above. I like it.

A note about your story. Your story can be about the time that you called the township and Tony Barnes, or someone else, lied to you and told you that there was no township lawsuit against Crystal, Lee, and Hidden Creek Farm. I have had many people reach out and tell me that they've been told that lie. If I've learned nothing else from this it's that some people are very committed to their lies, and lies do work, because people would doubt the lawsuit after talking to the township. It amazed me. Anyway, here's how that might go.

- - - - - - -

"Have you ever felt like a fool?"

"I called the township the day that I heard about the lawsuit against Hidden Creek Farm. I talked to X. They told me that there was no lawsuit. They said there was a restraining order because of a parking issue, and they said that the neighbor Ken was suing them, but denied that the township was pursuing any litigation against the farm. I didn't know who to believe. Then, I found out that the Muskegon Circuit Court has the lawsuit confirmed on their website."

"I hate the feeling of being fooled by my own township. I hate the feeling of not being able to trust the very people that should be looking out for my rights as a citizen. I feel disrespected and deceived, because I have been, and it's unacceptable. Things need to change, and the first change that we need is better people in office."

- - - - - - -

That simple little example would take about 43 seconds. It's based on some of my experience. I know other people that have had the same experience, so if you want to use this then go ahead.

Another option is to skip the first statement. Just jump right into what you have to say. I'll do another tiny example. It can be a bit longer if that's needed of course, up to 3 minutes.

- - - - - - -

"On May 29th I went to the township and asked to see the meeting minutes from the May 13th board meeting. I was told that I had to fill out paperwork requesting them. Later, I found out that that's a violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. They have to have the proposed meeting minutes publicly available 8 days after the meeting, and it had already been a couple of weeks."

- - - - - - -

That's just fine to say. You don't have to go into anything more if you don't want to, you got your point across.

The last way of speaking is the classic school version. You have an intro where you say what you're going to talk about, then you talk about those things, then you state what you've talked about. That's fine if you want to do that. I'm not going to do a whole one of those here, but it would be good to explain how thwarting due process is an attempt to destroy one of the key foundation stones upon which all of civilized society rests.

If you are feeling uncertain and want to reach out to me then I'll help you with a few pointers or suggestions. I'm busy, but I'll make time. Message me what you're working with and I'll send back a couple of notes.

The point of this whole thing is that you don't have to be silent. If you have something to say you can say it. You can just stand up and say, "I support the farm.", or "I support Jeff's Resolution.", or "I support Tony's resignation." It can truly be that simple if that's what you feel is a fulfillment of your duty as a citizen. The first amendment in the Bill of Rights is first for a reason.

And, if you don't want to speak, that's perfectly fine too. Just show up and clap.


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