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How To Mobilize Your Supporters
Encourage other TRA members to get involved with your efforts to form coalitions. Inform your industry colleagues and coalition members of how ordinances or legislation may impact their business. Consider many forms of communication: telephone calls, faxes, newsletters, or even on-line discussion groups such as Restaurantvilleís Political Issues Table Discussion. Always stress the urgency and importance of getting involved.
Organize Your Group and Strategy
Organize Your Group and Strategy
Hold an organizational meeting to get everyone on the same track. Since details can work for or against you, here are some tips to insure success:
Besides keeping informed, encourage your coalition members to contact politicians, building bridges of communication which will prove valuable when issues do arise. However, if a measure has already surfaced in your area, recruit supporters to contact officials immediately on that issue. Remember, while the issue at hand may drive you to establish a relationship with your official, those who maintain the relationship will have an advantage.
When an issue is at hand, ask your coalition members to take action. Give them the pertinent names and phone numbers and ask them to:
To avoid watering down or destroying your credibility, limit your letter writing to issues of direct impact on your organization. Letters can be used as written follow-up to personal meetings or to respond to a member's request for additional information.
Do not be disappointed if , after establishing an amicable relationship with an official, you receive a form letter response. Form letters and blanket mailings are standard procedures. To maximize the chances of your letter receiving the attention you want, make reference in it to any meeting or previous communication you've had with the official.
Keep your letters as short as possible without sacrificing the substance of your message. I you have been dealing with a particular staff person in the official's office, send the letter to that person's attention. The staffer will appreciate being remembered and will give your letter more attention. To compose a brief but effective letter using the correct salutations, refer to our Sample Letters.
Phone calls can reinforce letters. If you have enough "lead time" before a vote, you can use a combination of phone calls and letters to increase your impact. In some cases, you will want to call first to "soften them up" and, then follow up your phone conversation with a letter calling for action. Other times, you may want to mail a letter first and follow up with a phone call to reinforce your attention on the issue.
In emergency situations when there is no "lead time," a phone call alone may be the only way to exercise your influence before voting occurs on an ordinance or bill. Draft a script for your call to insure you donít overlook any main points. If the official is not available, speak to a staff member who deals with the issue. Ask the staffer to pass your message to the official and request a written response. Always be brief and polite
Invite public officials to your meetings. Invite them to address your group on a particular issue or to share tips on the political process in general. Provide them with an information sheet about your group and an agenda for the meeting.
The single most effective way to get your message across to public officials is to visit them in person. Personal contact often can influence their vote. Knowing beforehand where your official stands on a particular issue will help you plan your discussion for the meeting. During the meeting, keep the conversation focused on the issues confronting you and avoid speaking in jargon (like HVAC or HACCP) which may create confusion. Respect the officialís time by limiting your visit to 15 minutes.
Always follow up in writing. Thank the official for his or her time. Briefly restate the points you made at the meeting. If the official supported your position, thank him or her again. If the official did not support your position, say, "I hope you'll reconsider in the future."
If you can't arrange a meeting with an official, the next best thing is to meet with a staff member. You should have no trouble finding someone with whom you can meet and who can convey your views to your official. After the meeting, write to your official. Mention that you met with his or her staffer. Reinforce the points you made during the meeting. You may want to include copies of backup materials and position papers. Urge your official to support you, and of course, send a thank you note to the staffer.
If you happen to be in Washington, D.C. or Austin, by all means, drop into the House and Senate office buildings at the Capitol. You'll be welcome and should feel comfortable. If you don't get to see your officials in session, sign the guest register and visit with a staff member. Later, when you write to your officials, mention that you visited their Washington offices.
Public Forums & Public Hearings
Many elected officials hold town meetings or public forums. Look for and take advantage of these opportunities. Usually the meeting or forum is held in a school or civic center. The official hosting the meeting begins with a short presentation, then the floor is opened for questions from the audience. Ask about the officialís position on the issues and speak out on behalf of your group and its position.
From time to time, you and your supporters may choose to attend a public hearing, a time-honored forum in which citizens can air their views. Persons wanting to give testimony may need to sign a witness card or raise their hand at the meeting, or occasionally they will need to make prior arrangements with the city clerk for permission to speak.
If you plan to testify at a state or national committee hearing, please call the TRA Government Affairs Office at (800) 395-2872 for assistance. Since speaking time is usually restricted at these hearings, you should prepare a brief outline of key points and leave copies with the staff members in attendance.
Texas Legislative Affairs Conference
The conference includes visits with your area representatives and addresses by some of the highest-ranking government officials in the state. It concludes with a gourmet luncheon with an estimated 80-100 state lawmakers.
Similar to TRA's Legislative Affair Conference, the National Restaurant Association hosts an annual Public Affairs Conference in Washington. The conference includes briefings on national issues, visits to Capitol Hill and a reception with members of Congress. The NRA Public Affairs Conference is held around September. Online registration is possible at http://www.restaurant.org.
TRA's Political Action Committee
The process of deciding which officials to support with contributions can be difficult and expensive. Political Action Committees (PACs) were established to serve this purpose. Through a PAC, contributions are presented to elected officials as a reflection of the support they enjoy from TRA, and the impact can be significant.
While you can and should continue to make individual contributions to political candidates, there is no substitute for participating in TRAís political action committee (TRAPAC) for the clout it gives our industry.
Advantages include the opportunity to present a significant contribution at a dinner or party honoring the recipient, which will cause the official to focus on your legislative interests. Also, the official will view the associationís support as something more than lip service. This results in increased access to the official by the association's staff and members. Very few successful legislative efforts today do not include participation in a PAC.