Town Tip #2: Engaging Your Local Government

FT Campaigns Intern November 5, 2014

Reaching Goal #5: Engaging Your Local Government

Pasadena ribbon cutting

Goal #5 is about citizen engagement. To reach this goal you will need to complete the following:

  • Pass a Fair Trade resolution, or even better a more formal procurement policy. There may be instances where passing something is not immediately possible, but this must be discussed with the National Organizer.

 

The Obstacles

The Solutions

Knowing how your local council works Putting effort in up front will make this process much smoother. Visit your municipality’s website to see when meetings and public hearings are held. Also, look to see if previous meetings’ agendas are available, looking at these will help you understand the process of a meeting. It’s also a good idea to attend at least one meeting as just a spectator prior to introducing your resolution.
Finding your champion Before presenting the resolution to city council, see if there’s one or two people on the council that will champion your resolution. Email or meet with each member about your initiative.  Look first at your own team to see who knows who. There may be a connection to someone already, and that personal connection can go a long way towards catching someone’s ear. A little research can help as well. Find out if council members each have specific zones of the municipality (such as a business district), or are on certain subcommittees relevant to your cause. Do a quick internet search for news articles to see the politics and leanings of a councilperson.
Writing a resolution When you’re ready to approach the whole council, make sure you have a resolution ready to go. First, look at the council’s website for previously passed resolutions. From this, you’ll be able to see the types of information they require in a resolution, as well as the format in which it should be presented. This is also where your champion can help, they may give you tips or read a draft of the resolution. You can also find examples of resolutions that have been passed in other towns here. 

 

Guidelines to help prepare yourself:

1. Make sure you have the right person for the job. Someone who is interested in, or would like to learn more about local politics would be ideal. It will also require a little bit of commitment when working with the council. They are busy and your group needs to respond quickly and be ready to go when they say go. Delaying action with the council because you’re not ready could make you seem unorganized and may affect how the council perceives you.

2. Process, process, process! Put the time in to do some research leading up to your goal. Knowledge is power, and knowing the steps your council takes as well as knowing who may be supportive of your cause will mean you will have all the answers and will make you feel more confident and secure.

3. Work with the council members and give them the opportunity for feedback. This will be helpful for two reasons, you won’t blindside them with pressure to pass a resolution about something they’ve potentially never heard of, and you give them a chance to give their input into the resolution to make it something that everyone can agree on.

 

Check out these resources:

Template Declaration Press Release – Make sure your spread the word!

Sample Resolutions – Samples from other towns as well as a template

Campaign Petition Sign Up Sheet – Collect signatures from your community

Engaging Local Government Case Study – Claremont, CA 

Best Practices from the Field

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FT Campaigns Intern, Digitial Communitications & Programs Intern | Fair Trade Campaigns