You’re tired and the upcoming week is crammed full of business and personal commitments. You’d like to attend the SCCA Legislative Committee or Local Government Advocacy Group (LGAG) meeting that’s scheduled this week. But as you rank your priorities, attendance at either one ranks low on your list of things to do. You reason, “Someone else has it covered” or “It’s not that important that I participate.” From personal experience, I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth.
In my 30 years with the City of Los Angeles, I was involved in many issues that were controversial. I participated in countless open- and closed-door meetings regarding these projects. It impressed me how some communities and organizations consistently participated and when needed, showed up in force to support or fight against an issue. More importantly, it impressed the policymakers.
It makes a big difference when policymakers can see and hear from the stakeholders. It also carries weight with the senior and executive staff of the locality’s various departments. Of even greater value is when policymakers have a personal connection with an organization and its members.
The first thing that comes to most folks’ minds is monetary contributions. While this plays a role, it’s not the only piece in the puzzle. When policymakers can put a face to the cause or know they’ll be supported on an issue, it goes a long way to building relationships.
Case in point, many years ago, I was managing a community development project. The community was upset about the city’s vision for the project. While the community was poor, they were legendary for supporting policymakers from either party at the local, state, and federal levels who cared about their neighborhood. On this project, the city was ignoring the community’s concerns. The next thing I knew, I got a call from the President of the United States requesting names and numbers. Problem solved. The community’s desires were incorporated into the project.
When I served as the acting executive officer for the Board of Public Works, it was a given that controversial items were scheduled on a “light-agenda” day. This was because the discussion regarding the specific issue could last hours. Again, certain communities and organizations packed the room if the board was hearing an item that either positively or negatively impacted them. The number of stakeholders and their passion always carried weight in shaping the board’s final decision.
Also important: Speaking on an issue in a public meeting becomes part of the permanent public record.
When you participate and serve on one or more of SCCA’s committees, you help increase awareness and educate others outside the industry. As Tom Glazer says, “Participation … is one of the best methods of educating.”
By Suzanne Scheideker-Cook, Strategic Ventures