This is a Downtown Dispatches guest post from the League of Independent Theater‘s Political Research and Outreach Working Group.
The League of Independent Theater (LIT), the only 501(c) 6 advocacy organization for the independent theater and performing arts population of New York City, has created a handy list, below, on getting politically involved in time for the upcoming election on November 4, 2014.
The League made endorsements in the 2013 citywide elections and created a voting guide for performing artists. Our choices were made based on their engagement with our Performing Arts Platform, which covers affordable living and work spaces for artists, preventing the loss of more spaces, electric rates, tax assessments and other important issues that impact performing artists in NYC. LIT is not making endorsements in this election cycle because we focus on city-based issues. But we do think it is important for you to get to the polls and vote your conscience.
Something to consider if you think independent theater doesn’t have a voice in this city: independent theater creates the largest number of productions in the five boroughs of New York City. While Broadway averages 70 productions a year, we create around 3,000. If we harness this, we could gather 100,000 votes for any candidate. This means we could practically walk anyone we wanted into the Mayor’s office. But we need you to become actively involved and help recruit other performing artists and supporters around you.
Here is how you can be a politically active and educated performing artist.
For this election:
- Check out the New York State Voter’s Bill of Rights. You can find a lot of other handy info at the NYC Board of Elections website.
- Know where your polling place is.
- Research the candidates. Make it a point of pride to never go into the voting booth without really knowing the people who are listed on your ballot. Also, make sure you know what proposals will be on the ballot.
Note: The last day to register for the general election was October 10, 2014. If you have moved within the city, but have not yet changed your address with the Board of Elections, you should submit a new registration form to the NYC Board of Elections immediately. For this election, you can still vote at your old address or you can vote at your new address, even though you’re not on the rolls, by going to the polling place and asking for an affidavit ballot. The final day to apply to vote by absentee ballot is October 28, 2014.
For future elections:
- Consider enrolling as a Democrat in NYC. Why? This city leans heavily Democratic. If you are enrolled in the Democratic Party, you can vote in the primary elections where most of our elections are really decided. Those who want to vote for other parties, such as the Green Party or Working Families, can vote for those candidates during the general elections. But again, most elections are already decided during the primary. Primary elections are decided with only around 800,000 votes.
- Get involved in elections. Flyer and make calls for candidates. They remember you and this makes it easier to get meetings with them once elected. You would be surprised how much our candidates and elected officials genuinely like theatre. Not engaging with them is a loss in many ways for you, your company and the greater indie theater territory.
- Get local. Sit in on meetings with the City Council and your Community Board. Find out first-hand what is happening in your neighborhood. Don’t simply rely on the news passively coming to you. Showing up at these meetings can provide many potentially beneficial opportunities for you.
The League has had several meetings with candidates we endorsed after they took office. You can see some of them in a video of the NYC City Council’s open hearing last month on a comprehensive Cultural Plan. You can see the League’s Director of Operations Guy Yedwab give oral testimony on behalf of independent theater artists starting at the 1 hour and 53 minute mark. Go Guy! This is just one of the ways LIT is interacting with elected officials on your behalf.
- Find out who represents you in NYC.
- Join one of LIT’s PRO working groups (Manhattan/Bronx, Brooklyn/Staten Island and Queens.) If interested send us a message here.
- Get familiar with LIT’s Performing Arts Platform. This is what we take to candidates and elected officials to see whether or not they are truly arts-friendly.
- Use Twitter to get candidates’ and elected officials’ attention on matters that concern you and your theater colleagues.
In addition to our three Political Research and Outreach working groups, the League also has working groups dealing with Real Estate, Codes and Contracts, Green, Foreign Language, Unification and Communication. We encourage you to join the League and to get active with one of these groups. Questions? Please email us.