The Women in My Neighborhood

Today we celebrate 100 years of women having the right to vote.

But something has been frustrating me lately. Various groups recognize the strength and power of the women’s vote. They try to push us into action and get us to care about various causes, political issues, or certain elections. But they all seem to miss one vitally important fact about women.

We don’t all think the same.

I love that.

While we all try to navigate this election, it helps to have things that keep us grounded. For me, it’s the example of the women in my neighborhood. No matter how crazy and brutal political discussions get online (or in real life), I feel uplifted and strengthened by my neighbors. We don’t believe in all of the same things, but we are all doing our best to make the world a better place. Let me share a few inspiring stories.

One neighbor is extremely passionate in pretty much everything she does. She’s going to school and raising a house full of boys. She doesn’t let failures stop her. She is amazing.

Another neighbor several years ago shattered both of her feet. The thought of not being able to walk again didn’t paralyze her with fear, but inspired her to push herself to prove the doctors wrong. She now regularly hikes mountains — on her own two feet. Having overcome her own health challenge, she now strengthens her family, and our whole community. She shares her thoughts of hope and inspiration. She’s vulnerable about the days she’s feeling low alongside her moments of strength. 

Several mothers have stared down the fear of giving birth during this pandemic. Each one of them have not only faced their own fears, but reached out to help and lift others. 

One neighbor can tell you so many things about each family in the neighborhood. Invested in the welfare of her community, this neighbor pays attention and loves the people that surround her. Though she struggles with her own internal battles, she is there to fight alongside any friend or neighbor who needs her help.

Another neighbor regularly reaches out to me to see how I’m doing. Regardless of the multiple things on her own plate, and in spite of her own struggles, she never fails to think of others and make sure they are doing okay. 

And speaking of plates, several neighbors regularly share food. Food from their garden and meals that they’ve made. I think that’s just amazing. 

Another neighbor, at the start of this pandemic, started making story book videos for the kids in our neighborhood. Such love and care has helped me find that inner angel in those moments of dealing with less-than-angelic children. 

There are neighbors who jump right in when there’s an opportunity to serve. Whether that’s helping me with my insane mask-making project or stopping by to share some flowers, the joy these women spread is refreshing.

And not to wander back into the political topic, but several neighbors have helped me understand political issues better by taking the time to talk with me. I learn so much from listening to these women’s perspectives.

We are not all the same. We shouldn’t be the same. We agree sometimes and disagree other times. Each of the women I know personally represents the strength that comes from diversity, when it’s combined with caring for one another. It’s not about getting people to vote a certain way or to act a certain way. It’s about helping us feel our own value. 

So to all of the women out there — regardless of your political positions, your favorite version of Pride and Prejudice, or where you see yourself in five years — you are strong, you are brave, and you can change the world.

Reigniting the Fire

I remember walking home one day from my university American Heritage class and feeling so inspired! “The United States of America is an amazing place to live,” I thought, “not just because of the freedoms we enjoy, but because of the miracle of how it was formed.” As I walked, I recalled moments of the semester. We learned that the Founding Fathers managed to work together and pull off, against all odds, an impossible feat that would launch us forward as an independent nation. It took courage. It involved great risk. But the Founding Fathers knew that life could not continue on its present course. Something needed to change.

Since that inspiring class, I am sad to admit that the fire within me fizzled and died. I saw the realities of the political environment and concluded that there was no place for me. Things seemed to move along fine without me. 

Years went by and I found other ways to make a positive impact on the world. My life journey eventually took me overseas where my husband and I worked to help other countries improve on their democratic ideals. And then a few years ago it hit us that we might need to focus on the democratic ideals at home. 

Coming home to a divided country has been interesting. I have family all along the political spectrum, all equally passionate about their positions. I haven’t had the luxury of an echo chamber, or a group of like-minded individuals who simply reinforce what I already think. I have had some tough conversations that have stretched me and required me to reach deeper within myself and my personal beliefs. I have found myself understanding my own ideals better. I have made some adjustments when a conversation has shed light on areas where I had more to learn. I have found connections with people I never thought possible. 

And through this whole process, I find myself getting inspired again! I find myself eager to learn and eager to express hope for the future. 

Democracy is not easy. I have come to appreciate that more as I’ve worked with countries that go for the easier, tyrannical way of running a country. Democracy requires effort. We can’t force other people to just go along with the things we believe are right. It takes work to recognize true connections, true and lasting solutions to our problems that lead us to a path forward — together. We have to especially do our best to not leave anyone behind. 

Looking back at what it took our Founding Fathers to unite the colonies and bring about our independence, I hope to have that same courage regardless of the odds. I have hope for the future and believe we can bring about lasting change for the better. Because looking at the way things are going, something needs to change.

So here I am, running for Senate District 7 with the United Utah Party (UUP). Let’s see what great things we can do!

A Change of Heart

In March, when a lot of us started quarantining and social distancing, I was chatting with a friend about all of the changes, and I happened to mention face masks. Immediately she said, “I would never be caught dead wearing a mask.” I was kind of surprised she already had such firm feelings about it.

As April rolled around, I started making a few face masks, mostly because I can sew and I had people asking for some. I figured it couldn’t hurt to be prepared. A thought came to make one for this friend. The thought kind of terrified me, fearing that by the simple gesture I might offend her. Somehow, though, I got up enough courage, made one and gave it to her. To my surprise, she graciously accepted it. (Whew!) Thinking back, I am really not all that surprised because she is a nice person, but at the time, I had worked myself up to imagine some real fireworks. Later, I asked her if I had offended her by making her a face mask. She chuckled and said she wasn’t offended, but that she didn’t expect to wear it much.

Later however, and being the good friend that she is, she sent me a message and thanked me for making it, in spite of her initial reaction. She said that several times she was happy to have it in her purse since a few places had started requiring masks. She said it made her feel good to have a nice one to pull out and put on, even though she didn’t exactly agree that she needed it.

We have had the occasional discussion about everything going on. She looks at how everyone is acting and reacting, and comments on how it’s all a little overdone (or a lot overdone). She is concerned about the fear that’s being generated by everything. She disagrees with the enormous amount of responsibility being placed on the government to make decisions for us. Even with her own personal beliefs, she has volunteered her time and helped sew face masks for others. 

But then, she faced a real challenge as the messages from various leaders in her life have become more direct in saying that we need to wear facemasks in public. She didn’t say this directly to me, but I can imagine that having the same messages of “the other side” coming from people that she respects might have created some feelings similar to betrayal. How could they be saying the same things that all of these overhyped people are saying? How could they be telling her to put on a mask?

It was a few days that we didn’t talk and I wasn’t sure what she was thinking or feeling. When we finally connected again, I asked her how she was doing with this whole thing. “It’s been rough,” she admitted. She explained that at first, she didn’t want to have to go along with what everyone else has been saying. She didn’t want to have to give up her position and her belief that masks aren’t important. She had to take some personal time to reflect and understand why all of this mattered. In the end, she concluded that while she still might not agree with all of what people have been saying, she decided that she wanted to move forward and support the more fundamental things that she believes in.

I share this story not so that you all feel guilty and put your masks on. It’s just that I can’t help admiring my friend. I have reflected again and again on what she did. She went from thinking and believing very strongly one way, to being willing to do something else. That is HARD. That is really hard. I think about the amount of humility it must have taken her. I think about what our communities, and society, would be like if we had more people like her. 

I want to be more like her.

Legislative Special Session – Special Needs Scholarship

As we follow the Legislative special session to address the emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic, an odd bill stands out in the line-up. HB 332 is a bill, which passed during the regular legislative session but was vetoed by the governor earlier this year, is making another pass with the hope of getting enough support to overturn the veto.

But honestly, what is this bill and what does it do? Essentially, HB 332 would give corporations, as well as individuals, income tax credit for donating money for the purpose of helping private schools accommodate students with disabilities through a scholarship program – the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program. This scholarship program would be managed by the State Board of Education. As it oddly sticks out, it’s interesting trying to peel back the layers and understand this bill.

To begin, the difference between a public and a private school has a lot to do with accountability and oversight. By definition, a private school is free from government entities looking over their shoulder. For those who don’t like certain aspects of public education, it is their right to pay tuition or seek scholarships to attend a private school. Most people agree that choices in education are important, including the choice to attend a private school.

Okay, so students and parents should have choices, even students with special needs. As a person who serves as an American Sign Language interpreter, I agree wholeheartedly!

But there are a few important questions we need to ask. Should we give corporate donors tax breaks because they donate to the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program? Does giving an income tax break to corporations impact our revenue? Does it put an undue burden on the State Board of Education?

I would argue yes. Here’s why.

Does giving an income tax break to corporations impact our revenue?

Income tax is how we pay for education. As we give corporations tax breaks, the amount of money we can collect for education goes down. This leaves fewer dollars to cover the needs of the state. So though the state would not be paying for the scholarships directly, we would be paying indirectly in lost revenue.

Does it put an undue burden on the State Board of Education?

This is probably the most important question. Because private schools are not required to follow the rules and regulations that public schools do, there is still a need to provide oversight for the care of special needs students receiving an education at a private school. Each student qualifies for this Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship by having an IEP (students under the Individualized Education Program — supported by IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Receiving and maintaining an IEP is intense and requires at least five different people. IEPs are evaluated at least every three years and in the case of a private school, would have to be conducted by the local public school. So a public school would still have to be responsible for the educational goals and responsibilities of a special needs student, but would have no say or control over the measures taken to meet the needs of the Education Plan.

In addition to all of that, the State Board of Education would become responsible for this private school’s scholarship program, managing the funds, determining qualified applicants, and conducting any follow up and oversight to ensure proper use of the funds. That all requires additional money that would be paid for by the state.

Hmm….

I have wondered why this particular bill is so important, especially given that we already have the Carson Smith Scholarship Program which essentially does the same thing. The one thing that stands out as a difference between the Carson Smith Scholarship Program (CSSP) and the proposed Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program (SNOSP) is the source of funding. CCSP is funded through the general fund and controlled by the legislature. Funds for the SNOSP but is donation based and is tied to an income tax credit.

I also can’t help but notice that one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Lincoln Fillmore, is a former private school principal.

Studying this bill and trying to understand the real reasons for pushing it through at such a time as this makes me feel all the more certain that we need to be understanding these issues and making decisions together.

If indeed we feel that it’s important to support students with special needs having the choice they would otherwise not have to attend a private school, I would love to understand that point better. I would also love to round out that discussion with appreciating and understanding the efforts made by public schools to equally serve the needs of all students, including those with special needs.

Let us all continue to understand and learn together.

Face Mask Fundraiser

Life is challenging as we do our best to adapt since the outbreak of COVID-19. As new information becomes available, we do our best to apply best practices. One of the things our health leaders advise is the use of a face mask.

Therefore, I would like to make free face masks to anyone who donates to my campaign.

How does it work?

Make a donation to one of our candidates and then send an e-mail with your order to emilybergeson@uupforsd7.com. Please include:

  • Fabric selection
  • Size
  • Strap preference (elastic or ties)
  • Quantity

I will contact you to confirm your order and delivery preferences. I am also happy to send masks to other friends and relatives. I can work with you on the details.

Questions? Contact me at emilybergeson@uupforsd7.com

Sizes: men, women, teen, youth (7-12), child (3-6)

All masks are made according to the design pictured above. These masks are made with a white quilters cotton lining (the part that touches the face) and has a choice of elastic around the ears or ties. These masks do not have wire around the nose. For custom requests or questions, feel free to contact me!

Fabric choices (please check regularly as choices are based on supply):

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Cherry checkered
(loose weave poly-cotton)
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Garden flowers
(flannel)
Berries
(stiff cotton blend)
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Flowers on green background
(quilters cotton)
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Alligators
(quilters cotton)
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Summertime
(quilters cotton)
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Noah’s ark repair
(quilter’s cotton)
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Light green crosshatch
(flannel)
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Red with white polka dots
(quilters cotton)
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Red and navy plaid
(flannel)
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Silly dogs
(flannel)
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Light blue
(quilters cotton)
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navy blue
(quilters cotton)

Also available in plain white.

Primary Elections – How They Work in Utah

Primary elections are one of those things that managed to confuse me. Presidential primaries have their own processes, candidates, political party voting requirements, and deadlines. Local primaries have different candidates, deadlines, and also political party state requirements. And that’s all before the general election in November.

I don’t know why I was confused….

I tried looking on vote.utah.gov to kind of sort things out better, but couldn’t find anything that clearly explained all of these different elections (presidential primary, state primary, general elections).

At any rate, here’s hoping I can add some clarity.  As a note to those who already have a good handle on this topic, feel free to add to the conversation in the comments. We can all benefit from your knowledge!

Primary Elections – Generally Speaking

Primary elections are only necessary (before the general election) if for a given position, more than one person is stepping forward from the same political party. Each political party is allowed only one nominee, one person, to represent them on the ballot for each elected position. The primary election is a way for political parties, and those voting in their primaries, to pick their favorite. 

If only one candidate steps forward for each position, there would be no need for a primary. Those individuals would simply advance to the general election

Utah’s Presidential Primary Election

Because each state handles the presidential primaries and state primaries in their own way, Utah separates the presidential election from our state primary elections. Utah currently offers mail-in ballots (issued by the county clerk) to voters based on political party affiliation. Republican primaries are all closed primaries, limited only to registered members. All of the other political parties in the state conduct open primaries, allowing all registered voters to participate. Voters can also vote in-person on voting day. The same party affiliation restrictions apply.

The last day to participate in the 2020 PRESIDENTIAL primary in Utah is March 3. Ballots sent by mail must be postmarked by March 2nd.

(Note: United Utah has written additional provisions into their bylaws regarding the question of a presidential candidate. This will be addressed in a separate post.)

More About Presidential Primary Elections Nationwide

Once all of the individual state primary elections are done, there is a national convention to present a nominee for the general election. These conventions are held every four years, in line with when we elect a new president. Delegates from each state attend this big meeting and cast their vote for the candidate who won in their state. Each state determines the rules for how delegates vote, either reflecting the proportional results of their primary election (you guys vote for the first place winner, you guys vote for the second place winner, etc) or as a winner-take all (all of you vote for this one person).

When the national convention is done, the nominee is selected and then formally accepts the nomination. That one candidate (and chosen running mate) move on to the general election. 

2020 Presidential Primary Elections

The presidential primary for the Democratic party is currently the most intense this election cycle. More than the usual amount of candidates are hoping for the Democratic party nomination. With the number of candidates, the Democratic party has conducted a fair number of debates to help voters decide whom they like better. 

The Republican party has a handful of candidates on their primary ballot, but there aren’t any debates or any real contenders (as far as the public is concerned). That’s because President Donald Trump is able to run for a second term and he is pretty much the one who will win the nomination. It’s pretty rare, though not impossible, that the incumbent (the person currently in the position) doesn’t get the nomination. 

Iowa and New Hampshire have already finished their primary elections for all political parties registered in their state (specifically the Republicans and Democrats). From now until the national conventions, there will be more state primaries. Utah votes on what’s called “Super Tuesday” when 17 states conduct their presidential primary.

Utah State Primary Election

STATE primary elections are determined by state and local political party conventions. Remember, a primary election is only necessary if more than one candidate competes for an elected position within a given political party.

At these conventions, party delegates (selected based on the party’s bylaws) vote on candidates. If a candidate receives a certain percentage of votes, they either win the nomination, or qualify for a primary election. Thresholds and rules are determined by the political party. In the case when there is clear winner, the qualifying candidates move on to the primary election.

In Utah there is another way to get on the primary ballot of a political party. If a candidate does not achieve the necessary percentage of votes at the convention, the candidate is allowed to get their name on the ballot through signature gathering. Those who meet the requirements are allowed to have their name added.

For those political parties conducting a state and local primary election in 2020, voting ends June 30 (last day for state and local primary elections).

Share Your Thoughts and Questions

Share additional resources, thoughts, or questions!

Welcome!

Join me in being brave.

I’m super intimidated by the idea of running a campaign, but here I am. I have been researching politics over the last few years and something that stands out to me is that we all have something to contribute.

Politicians seem to like to keep the attention on themselves. I’d rather find out more about you. What do you like? What’s important to you. I love to bring out the best in others, and merge them together into the best ideas. I have quite a few great ideas, but I’m certain I’m not the only one. Some of the very best ideas come from collaborating and working together.

Another thing I’ve noticed in the political sphere is that people want you to think they “know-it-all.” This pressure to have all of the answers, I believe, is at the root of many systematic problems we currently face. When we admit we don’t know everything, we open ourselves up to better ideas. Whether those ideas are old or new, if they’re better, that’s what matters.

I hope you’ll join me in being brave. When one person is willing to be brave, that can inspire another person… and another… and another. Let’s be brave together!

Like this idea? Want to join us? Contact me at contact@bravingpoliticstogether.com