Get Involved: We're Here to Help!

Each week, CivCity's e-newsletter features a variety of ways to get more involved in local civic life. This is a compilation of those suggestions. Some of the info is time-sensitive so when applicable, we indicate deadlines. (Want to receive our newsletters? Click here to sign up!)

WEEK OF APRIL 24, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Give feedback about police-community relations. The city of Ann Arbor is holding a community forum on Wednesday, April 26 – 6-8:30 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. It's one of several ways they're gathering input from residents, as part of a broader review recommended by the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission.

2. Attend a forum on redistricting reform. The Monday, April 24 event starts at 6 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., and is hosted by State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (District 53). It features speakers from both sides of the political aisle.

3. Learn about the health and well-being of kids in Washtenaw County. New data from the 2017 Kids Count shows how we compare to other parts of Michigan. 

4. Explore USAFacts.org, a new website that allows you to search for information from multiple federal, state and local databases. 

Suggested reading: "What Happens When Women Legislate," a column by Brittany Bronson published in the New York Times.

WEEK OF APRIL 17, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Vote absentee. (If you qualify, of course.) Because hey, we go to the polls on May 2!

2. Weigh in on state legislation that would allow no-reason absentee voting. Michigan is in a minority of states that don't offer this voting option. Click here to find your State Senator. Click here to find your State Representative.

3. Ride the bus. Then give feedback about proposed route changes set to take effect this fall

Suggested viewing: "Thank You, Scott!" – a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring comedian Louis C.K. that pokes a little fun at armchair social media "activism."

Suggested reading: "Despite Activism, Will We Be Lonely At The Polls on May 2?" A column by CivCity founder & executive director Mary Morgan.

WEEK OF APRIL 10, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Attend an Ann Arbor Public Schools community meeting to learn about the May 2 ballot proposal. The first one is Thursday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.

2. Volunteer at the Saturday, April 15 Trash-a-Thon at Veterans Memorial Park. The event runs from 10-11:30 a.m. and the team that picks up the most trash will win fabulous prizes!

3. Play an online game to learn about how county government works. The game is part of curriculum developed by iCivics and the National Association of Counties, aimed at middle school and high school students.

4. Check out No Labels, a national nonpartisan group with local connections. Ann Arbor resident Griff McDonald is leading efforts in this area. If you're interested in getting involved, reach him at griffmcdonald@gmail.com. No Labels also has a University of Michigan student chapter.

Suggested reading: This Bridge Magazine article: "A conservative and two liberals swapped news feeds. It didn’t end well.

WEEK OF APRIL 3, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Adopt a city park. There are 159 parks in Ann Arbor, and some need a little extra TLC. 

2. Apply to serve on a Washtenaw County advisory group. There are current vacancies on the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council and the Building Code/Construction Board of Appeals

3. Track action in the Michigan Legislature on the Open States website. Watch this brief tutorial to learn more!

4. Take the U.S. Civics Practice Test. It's designed for people studying to become citizens, but is a great way to test anyone's knowledge of our federal government and history.

Suggested viewing: An interview with State Senator Rebekah Warren (District 18). She was interviewed by Jim Blow as part of his Conversations series on Community Television Network (CTN).

WEEK OF MARCH 27, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Find at least one person you know who isn't registered to vote and help them register! To vote in the May 2 special election, you must be registered by Monday, April 3.

2. Sign up for the free Washtenaw Citizens Police Academy. The deadline to register is April 28.

3. Learn about the ballot initiative by the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The group hopes to put a statewide proposal on the November 2018 ballot.

Suggested reading: This March 17 article in The Atlantic: "The University of Michigan’s Plan to Increase Diversity."

WEEK OF MARCH 20, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Attend a March 22 public forum on the proposed commuter rail known as WALLY. If the project moves forward, it would create a commuter train route between Howell and Ann Arbor.

2. Take a brief survey on pedestrian and bicycle safety issues in the Southeast Michigan region.

3. Learn how the city does tax assessments. This week is the chance for property owners to appeal their assessments, if they disagree with the outcome.

4. Find out about refugee resettlement in our community by attending a public forum on Thursday, March 23 sponsored by Jewish Family Services.

Suggested viewing: A Ward Talk interview with Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor.

WEEK OF MARCH 13, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Attend (or watch) the Ann Arbor city council's special work session on Thursday, March 16 focused on a proposal to develop the downtown Library Lot. It starts at 7 p.m. in city hall's 2nd floor council chambers.

2. Report your favorite potholes by calling 99-HOLES or using the city's A2 Fix It system. Washtenaw County Road Commission has a similar system at WCRC Fix It.

3. Get to know the University of Michigan Regents. Four of them have homes in the Ann Arbor area: Mark Bernstein, Andrea Fischer Newman, Ron Weiser and Kathy White. The board holds its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 16.

4. Take the "Do You Live in a Bubble?" quiz!

Suggested reading: This Michigan Daily article about UM's student government's vote to support making Election Day 2020 an academic holiday.

WEEK OF MARCH 6, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Weigh in on long-term transportation plans for Washtenaw County. Give feedback online or in person at a public forum on Thursday, March 9.

2. Sign up to get email alerts about actions in state legislative committees, to stay better informed about what's going on in Lansing.

3. Mark your calendar to attend an upcoming neighborhood watch forum with the Ann Arbor Police Department. The first one is on Thursday, March 16.

4. Suggested reading: Bridge Magazine's "Death to Government Mumbo Jumbo."

WEEK OF FEB. 27, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Sign up to get the Washtenaw Housing Alliance newsletter and attend the public debriefing on Tues., Feb. 28, 2017 to hear about the latest Point-In-Time Count, assessing the extent of homelessness in our community.

2. Get to know your Washtenaw County commissioners. They're holding a retreat on Thursday, March 2, 2017. And take a minute to learn about services that Michigan counties provide on the MI County Matters website.

3. Volunteer for the annual Frog & Toad Survey, administered by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources.

4. Learn the latest push for a statewide ballot proposal in 2018 to create an independent redistricting commission. The effort is spearheaded by Count MI Vote, which will be holding town hall meetings starting in March 2017 and organizing volunteers to collect the required signatures.

5. Suggested reading: Report by Joel Appel-Kraut in the Ann Arbor Community High School publication, The Communicator: "Detained, but not Deported: A Family’s Final Chance to Remain Undivided."

WEEK OF FEB. 20, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Attend the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission's special meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25. Learn what that group does, and about public art in this city.

2. Meet with one of your elected representatives. Coffee hours are coming up in Ann Arbor for State Reps. Yousef Rabhi (10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Roos Roast, 1155 Rosewood) and Adam Zemke (10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Literati Coffee, 204 S. Fourth Ave.) as well as Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (9:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 27 at Avalon Cafe, 120 E. Liberty). Mark your calendar.

3. Ask your friends, family & co-workers: Are they registered to vote in the May 2, 2017 special election? Find out more at AnnArborVotes.org.

4. Friday, Feb. 24 is the last day to register for the free Ann Arbor Citizens Police, Fire & Courts Academy. It meets weekly from March 7 through May 9. Click here for more info. 

5. Suggested reading: NPR's report with this provocative headline: "Did Betsy DeVos Make You Want To Run For School Board?"

WEEK OF FEB. 13, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Start prepping for the local May 2 election. So, er, what exactly is a sinking fund?

2. Take a look at who's serving on the Ann Arbor District Library board. One of them might be your neighbor! Their next meeting is on Monday, Feb. 20.

3. Attend a coffee hour with your elected representatives. State Sen. Rebekah Warren and Rep. Donna Lasinski are holding one on Monday, Feb. 13 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Saline District Library.

4. Play the Redistricting Game, created by the University of Southern California's Game Innovation Lab.

WEEK OF FEB. 6, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Learn about the tax that will be on the May 2, 2017 ballot to raise funds for Ann Arbor Public Schools. And click here to make sure you're registered to vote! The deadline to register is Monday, April 3.

2. Read through the Feb. 6 Ann Arbor City Council agenda then watch at least part of the meeting – maybe at a downtown viewing party!

3. Consider applying for one of the city's advisory boards. There are vacancies on the Recreation Advisory Commission, Cable Communications Commission, and Leslie Science & Nature Center Board, among others. Click here for more information, or fill out this form to apply.

4. Play one of the online games at iCivics, a nonprofit founded by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

5. Suggested reading #1: "Citizens can lead effort to fix district map" – column about Michigan redistricting efforts by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press.

6. Suggested reading #2: "Central Student Government continues to seek Ann Arbor election reform" – a Michigan Daily article about UM student government efforts to push for nonpartisan elections in Ann Arbor.

WEEK OF JAN. 30, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Learn which House committees and subcommittees Ann Arbor's state representatives – Yousef Rabhi (District 53), Donna Lasinski (District 52) and Adam Zemke (District 55) – are serving on, and what leadership positions they hold.

2. Get updated on the Ann Arbor deer cull and find out which local parks are closed from Jan. 30 through Feb. 13, 2017.

3. Sign up to get news alerts from the city of Ann Arbor on a variety of topics, including road closures, parks & rec events, construction updates, legal notices & more.

4. Track how U.S. Senators – including Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – are voting on each of President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominations at CabinetVotes.org.

5. Read the U.S. Constitution! It's not that long, and is a reminder of the fundamentals on which our democracy is based.

WEEK OF JAN. 23, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Sign up for the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative e-newsletter. You'll get updates on this nonpartisan effort to eliminate gerrymandering when drawing lines for legislative districts. Or check out a separate nonpartisan effort called Count MI Vote that recently launched – they're on Twitter at @CountMIVote.

2. Find out who represents you on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. On the nine-member elected board, three districts – 7, 8 & 9 – cover most of Ann Arbor. 

3. Play the Ann Arbor Wards Challenge! This online game is so fun you won't even realize you're learning the structure of city government. Bwahahaha!

WEEK OF JAN. 16, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Sign up for the free Ann Arbor Citizens Police, Fire & Courts Academy. It meets weekly from March 7 through May 9. NOTE: The deadline to apply is Feb. 24, 2017. 

2. Give feedback on proposals to develop the Platt Road site that's now owned by Washtenaw County. Click here to look at the proposals, then contact your county commissioner to weigh in before they vote – possibly as soon as February 2017.

3. Be a Citizen Pruner! Sign up with the city by January 17, 2017 for training on Saturday, Jan. 19. (If you've missed the deadline, get info on the next training date by contacting Tina Stephens at tstephens@a2gov.org or 734-794-6627 or Kerry Gray at kgray@a2gov.org or 734-794-6430 x 43703.)

4. Attend a session of the Michigan High School Ethics Bowl, on Jan. 28-29, 2017 at the University of Michigan's Palmer Commons starting at 1 p.m. Watch local high school students discuss ethical conundrums, including some that focus on civic issues. 

WEEK OF JAN. 9, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)

1. Help out with the annual Washtenaw Homeless Count, happening on Thursday, Jan. 26. UPDATE: Due to overwhelming response, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance – which administers this count – no longer needs volunteers. A debriefing will take place on Feb. 28, 2017 from 9-11 a.m. at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building, 4800 Huron River Drive.

2. Learn about available health care via the Washtenaw Health Plan, a nonprofit partnership between Washtenaw County and the University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy health systems, along with other local healthcare providers. Their staff is working to make sure residents have health insurance by the Jan. 31, 2017 Marketplace sign-up deadline. (Help is available year-round for Medicaid and for special enrollments.)