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Welcome to In an Auscape! What's an auscape? It's a word my friend Katie came up with that means "The sensation of a second stretching into a minute, a mile, or a year." Is that fresh or what? This newsletter is where I'll describe my (bi)weekly minutes, miles, and years. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
What I'm About
We have arrived at my final newsletter (this year) dedicated to the state legislature (at least until the bill we're running in New Jersey is introduced). Today I want to talk about inside/outside strategy, and how it takes activism to make sure the good bills pass and the bad bills die. 

When I started my job at the ACLU in Washington, way back at the beginning of 2018, I wanted to understand how laws were made. I'd been protesting laws for a long time, trying to change things and fighting to make the world a little more just in the streets, in newspapers, and by calling, writing, and tweeting at my legislators. But I didn't really understand how all those laws came to be in the first place.

During my time at the ACLU, I called in sick one day to protest the new youth jail the county was in the midst of constructing. I linked my arms with five people I trusted and stood for hours in the middle of an intersection. 

What I knew is that a law had been passed to spend over two hundred million dollars on a jail for children instead of spending it on the things kids actually need: healthy food, a safe place to sleep, and excellent schools. The county claimed they were working toward "zero youth detention" at the same time they were building a giant, expensive monument to racism. 

The protesting began immediately after the decision to build it, and the ones I participated in were among many, many protests. Our outside work—the work of activists who amplify issues that get laws passed or stuck down—took a long time, so long that the jail did eventually get built, the money spent.

But this summer, in the midst of a national uprising, the King County Executive finally committed to closing it. Sometimes, our calls and emails to legislators are enough to make sure bad laws never get passed. Sometimes we testify and rally and march to end bad policy. And sometimes we engage in years-long struggle to make lawmakers hear the refrain for humanity. 
Who I Followed
Alice Wong
"Cautiously optimistic but not sure what to think just yet.

One thing that’s clear is that #HighRiskCA folks were heard loud & clear and that’s freaking awesome" 2/12
"Reminder: many, many people do not experience "have you lost weight?" as a compliment. Asking about weight loss as a way of complimenting someone asserts that thin bodies are inherently superior to (and more desirable than) fat bodies." 1/28
Legislative Update
So what even happened in the legislature anyway? Well, there's a special session, so although we had anticipated being finished by now, we're actually still in session until 2/27. The three bills I'm helping to steward mad it through their respective chambers of origin, and now we'll cross our fingers and write to legislators to see them through the other House and onto the governor's desk.

If you want to learn generally about VA state politics, check out the Virginia Public Access Project, which has tons of data visualizations about state legislature. For details about bills, dig into the General Assembly page, but good luck, it's difficult. 

Coming up: We introduce in Washington, DC and New Jersey, and implement in Philadelphia and hopefully right here! 
Pleasure Fix
We got real, actual snow this week, and took a walk around a lake in a state park. We saw three raptors and a whole bunch of woodpeckers and cardinals, which is still thrilling every time after missing them on the west coast. Our feet may have been freezing, but our hearts were full and our cheeks were the right side of rosy. 
As you read this: We're wrangling two 2-year-olds while their siblings and parents hit the ski slopes. Wish us luck—we'll need it!
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Big ups to Ana Alvarez—writer, designer, cat enthusiast, and coffee whisperer—for my logo. Hire her!

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