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You, Too, Can Be an Advocate for Preservation In Austin

How to Advocate for Preservation
The local elections are over and Austin has a new Mayor and new City Council members. The State Legislature is also in session passing bills and the state budget over the next 140 days. Issues involving preservation, planning, neighborhood stability, housing affordability, and community development will be discussed—and acted on—by both City Council and the State Legislature. 

Advocacy is a way of letting your elected officials know what is important to you and how you want them to vote on those issues. It provides local officials, state officials and members of Congress with the information they need to understand the consequences of their decisions on their constituents—you, the issues important to you, your neighborhood and your community. Advocacy should be looked at as educating elected officials and the public about important issues. You can be a valuable resource for local elected officials as well as your State Representative and U.S. Congressional representatives.

Cities and states are facing tough choices and financial pressures. Learning to effectively advocate can save the programs that support historic preservation, neighborhood stabilization and community development.

WHEN DO YOU ADVOCATE?

  • Timing is important
  • If you are too late, the decision may have already been made
  • If too early, then the impact of educating the elected official may be lost
  • The optimum time is when an ordinance or bill is being formulated and written or when budget information is being pulled together
  • Decide on an agenda. If you are a neighborhood group, work with your board on this.
  • Write a brief agenda or note to tell the elected official why you want to meet with them
  • Don’t discount staff; meeting with them can be very helpful too

How to Be Successful

  • Request specific action on specific issue
  • Accurate information is essential
  • Examples to illustrate the impact in your town
  • Help the elected official be a success by making a positive impact to their voters
  • Learn who their staff is, if they have any, and keep in touch with them

Letters and Emails

  • Quantity is good
  • Quality and personal contact is just as good
  • Keep letters/emails to one page and one issue per letter/email
  • Discuss the issue using the ordinance, program or law if local; the bill number and title (state and national level), or Use local examples of the impact of the legislation-personalize
  • Ask a specific question about the ordinance, program or legislation; this increases the likelihood of a personal response—this may come from staff which is good too
  • Request a specific action—please vote for ordinance XYZ or Bill 123
  • Work with groups that have similar interests (affinity groups—arts, neighborhood, economic and community development)
  • Include your contact information—because of the volume of emails, many elected officials discard emails not from their district or from identifiable groups

Phone Calls

  • Phone calls can be very effective if you can’t get a face to face
  • Be concise: Identify who you are, where you are from
  • Ask to speak to the staff member assigned to the particular issue you’re interested in
  • State why you are calling—issue, ordinance, bill number and/or name
  • Relate the issue, ordinance or legislation to a local example or issue
  • State whether you are for or against an issue
  • Ask where your elected official stands on the issue
  • Follow up with a thank you letter and an information sheet