Elected officials don’t know what’s important to you unless you tell them. Letters and emails are great for a targeted campaign, but visits build the relationships that create change. Visits give you an opportunity to tell your story and explain why an issue is important to you. You also get to know the elected official and their concerns on the issue. Sometimes, you may only speak with the elected official’s staff. These visits are important, too, as the hard-working staff members research issues and compile information for the elected official.
Local Government Visits
Local elected officials have a smaller constituency and often are more accessible. Meeting with a mayor, council member, county commissioner, or other local elected official is a great way to get started in advocacy. Most local governments have webpages with contact information for the elected officials. Here are examples of how these pages look for some cities: Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Pecos. Search for the name of your city and the elected office (e.g., Waxahachie city council) online to find the information for your community. Use this information to contact the elected official and schedule a meeting.
Speaking at a city council meeting is a way to publicly advocate for a local issue. High level staff members, such as city managers and department heads, attend the meetings, and all will hear your story. Texas law requires city councils to publicly post their meeting schedule and allow public participation. Many cities have rules and procedures for public participation. It’s important to find this information before speaking to the council. Here are examples of rules and procedures for speaking to some city councils: Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio. The smaller the city, the fewer the rules may be for speaking. If you don’t find this information online, call the city secretary’s of clerk’s office to get the information.
State and National Government Visits
State and national elected officials split their time between the capitol and their home district. You can call and visit them in either place, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t make the trip to the capitol. Who Represents Me will tell you who your state and national senators and representatives are and how to contact their office.
U.S. Representatives and Senators may have townhall meetings when the legislature is in recess, particularly if it’s an election year. Use the Town Hall Project to find out if a town hall meeting is being held in your city.
Resources for Visits
Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston Speaks to City Council
Members of TxIPL’s local network in Houston is planning to speak to their city council at 1:30 on April 17, 2018. Watch live at http://houstontx.city.swagit.com/ Afterwards, a link to a recording of their testimony will be posted here for viewing.
Even a short phone call matters. This 2:37 minute video explains how to make an effective advocacy call.
Hear advice about effective communication from Texas legislative staff and watch a humorous enactment of an advocacy visit gone wrong. The 6:23 minute video provides a primer on how to communicate with elected officials.
This 7:25 minute YouTube video shows how to effectively advocate at a public hearing of the Texas legislator. Some of the information also is useful for speaking at a city council meeting.
Interfaith Power and Light’s Town Hall Toolkit gives tips to help prepare for speaking at a town hall meeting.