Morgan Carroll’s new book teaches readers how to Take Back Your Government
published: Wed., Feb. 22 2012 @ 11:58AM
Before she committed the lessons to the page, state senator Morgan Carroll had delivered hundreds of workshops and seminars on citizen advocacy. Since her career in politics began, the forty-year-old Democrat continues to be overwhelmed by the disconnect between paid lobbyists and the average citizen. So when she finally did put everything together — across ten months and more than 200 pages — she gave the resulting book a call-to-action title: Take Back Your Government. The idea to write a functional how-to, a reader’s guide to participating in politics, came to Carroll on a drive home after training Coloradans to become citizen lobbyists. Her students consistently ask her with whom they should talk, how to advocate, when to do it and where to go for the best possible results. For years, Carroll says, many of their questions were the same.
“There’s all this discontent, and we have fundamental questions,” Carroll notes, echoing the pitch to her publisher. “Is government an ‘it’ or a ‘we’?”
If it isn’t already obvious, Carroll is firmly in the “we” category. “We have to deconstruct what the government is, why we’re getting what we’re getting and what we can do about it. You can either check out or you can decide, ‘I don’t like this, and I’m going to change it.’ If you’re checking out, you’re basically giving a proxy vote to someone who doesn’t care about you.”
In college, where she minored in political science, and in law school, Carroll says she was taught about the three branches of government over and over without learning how to impact them. The same lack of awareness has continued to bother her since her election to the Colorado Senate in 2008. In Colorado, she estimates that of the approximately 800 bills each year, lawmakers only receive citizen input on about twenty.”It’s disappointing to see,” Carroll says. “It’s an amazing exercise to just go to the Secretary of State website where the lobbyists have to register and pull the list, because the answer is there as far as who can afford a lobbyist. To assume that someone else has your interests in mind is a mistake.”
After being introduced to a publisher at Fulcrum in November 2011, Caroll immediately pitched the book and earned a first-draft deadline of May, shortly after her legislative session ended. During the writing process for Take Back Your Government, Caroll took pains to make the book as user-friendly as possible, conducting layperson interviews and collecting samples of any paperwork with which her readers might be unfamiliar. The book, spot-colored in patriotic red and blue, travels through beginning and advanced political skills in 29 practical chapters, each of which begins with an inspiring quote.
Toward the end of the book, readers who are not satisfied with changing the system are taught to join it. “If they don’t like their choices, they should look in the mirror,” Carrol says. “I even cover writing your own bill and running for office.”
Take Back Your Government is personal and honest. In chapter eleven, titled “Meeting Your Legislators,” Caroll admits that before she ran for office, she had never met her own. “To be honest,” she writes. “It never occurred to me to try.” Throughout the $20 guide, Carroll calls upon lessons learned by both herself and others to serve as examples. “I wanted people to see themselves in the book, no matter where they’re coming from,” she says.
One of the most prominent stories is that of Patty Skolnik, a grieving mother with zero political experience who worked with Carroll to promote and then pass a 2007 bill expanding medical history laws. When her son died as a result of unnecessary surgery, Skolnik discovered the surgeon’s questionable occupational history too late to reverse their interactions together.
“She learned from top to bottom not only how the political process works but what the amendment process was like,” Carroll says. “She learned the whole thing out of passion. We used to joke about it being Patty-power because people who would have a partisan reaction to me would still respond to her. That’s how I want all my readers to be.”
On Saturday, Carroll will visit a Barnes & Noble in Loveland to conduct her second book signing in a series of events scheduled across the state. Her first, held at the downtown Tattered Cover, surprised even Carroll with its standard of interaction. As she spoke, employees kept adding more chairs to the audience, and she says the Q&A left both her and her audience empowered.
“After the book signing, one man came up to me, asked a couple questions and told me, ‘You have given me hope,’” Carroll says. “I was really honored, but I felt even more happy when I saw him the next week testifying at the Capitol. He was already using the book.”
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Lawmaking by the book
Local legislator tells how residents can make a difference in Colorado lawmaking
By SARA CASTELLANOS Staff Writer
AURORA | Amid increasing feelings of disapproval and distrust in government, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, has published a book that aims to demystify the esoteric nature of the state Legislature.
“Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change,” went on sale for $19.95 at bookstores in mid-January and can be most aptly described as an advocacy textbook designed to enlighten residents about how to participate in the lawmaking process.
The idea for the book was conceived when Carroll first took office in 2005.
“I just thought, you know, it’s amazing what a poor job we do letting people know how to actually impact the process,” she said.
The book, which Carroll spent nine months writing, puts emphasis on the importance of weighing in on the proposals that are making their way through the state Capitol, in any state. Out of about 800 bills that are usually introduced in the Colorado Legislature, only a minuscule number — usually about 20 — get constituent input, she writes in the book. One passage reads: “During my time serving at the Colorado state Capitol, I’ve watched ordinary men and women make and change law for the better in Colorado. I’ve also watched important bills die for lack of public participation and horrible bills pass for lack of public scrutiny.” Lobbyists, special interest groups or politicians pushing a certain agenda usually decide the outcomes of bills that don’t get public input.
“When citizens do get involved they can win on issues regardless of party, regardless of lobbyists, and regardless of special interests,” Carroll said. “I think it’s important for people to know that their participation is absolutely critical for democracy and that it actually matters.”
Carroll is candid in her writing, speaking in layman’s terms about her experiences at the Capitol and what she wishes she would have known before she took office.
“I managed to go through public school, political science for undergrad, law school, and run for office and not know most of what’s in this book,” she said.
Carroll, who was a state Representative before she was elected to the Colorado Senate in 2008, wrote that she had never met her legislators before she ran for office.
“To be honest, it never occurred to me to try,” she wrote. “I didn’t know them and assumed they would only meet with people they already knew or who were more ‘important’ than me … My assumption was that ‘other people’ had those meetings, not people like me. I was wrong.”
In her 200-page book, she encourages residents to meet with the lawmakers who represent them and offers tips on the best ways to effectively contact your legislator. Carroll also provides sample emails and telephone scripts, and the book includes chapters about advocacy for youth under 18 and for busy people. The book is also peppered with vignettes about everyday residents who have helped champion and change laws, as well as people like Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who became lawmakers after seeing problems with laws first-hand.
Carroll said there’s one lesson she hopes readers take away from her book.
“I want them to know that their participation is vital and that it actually matters and it makes a difference in the outcome,” she said. “The big picture is just to let people know it’s not futile.”
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, will be hosting a book signing at the Tattered Cover on East Colfax Avenue at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 at 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver.
The book can be purchased at bookstores or online at Amazon.com.
State senator publishes book
From her press release:
Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, has published her first book, “Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change” through Fulcrum Publishing and is now available online and in bookstores across the country.
This book is a practical, non-partisan, practical “how-to” guide for citizen’s to know how to most effectively participate to make and change laws and public policy at the state level and includes, tips, checklists, resources, samples and stories from actual citizens who have changed laws.
“I wrote this book because despite studying political science and getting a law degree at no point did I feel like I was ever taught the basic real-world tools about how to actually impact the system. I realized that most other people were in the same position. This book is written with inside information I have learned to help de-mystify the legislative process and given citizens their birthright keys to the capitol to make sure government is working for them,” Carroll said.
“After seven years in the legislature it is painfully clear to me that the only real check-and-balance to the influence of lobbyists and special interests in the legislature is when people participate and everyone has a right to know how to be effective in shaping their own government and their own state.”
Senadora Morgan Carroll publica su primer libro
El Comercio de Colorado
|Credito Foto: (Foto/Gofg)|
|DE ARCHIVO | La Senadora estatal, Morgan Carroll durante un evento en Aurora.|