Contacting Your Representatives

Written by Chad Meadows
January 14 is the opening day of the 2015 Legislative Session. Hopefully, 2015 will be a better year for land use planning in North Carolina. Rest assured the Legislative Committee will be keeping a close eye on the Legislature and keeping the chapter membership informed about pending legislation and advocating for sound planning practices across the state – but we can’t do it alone.

This year, as in years past, we may call on you and other planners to make contact with your representatives in the Legislature and ask them to consider how proposed legislation may affect our ability to plan for the citizens of our state. There is nothing more powerful to a state representative than correspondence or communication from a constituent – particularly an informed constituent.

While the Legislative Committee works on bills from a statewide perspective, representatives especially want to hear from folks who live or work in their district. Local planners play a key role in our advocacy efforts by contacting their representatives directly through letter, email, phone, and even face-to-face visits to express support or disapproval for specific legislation. This outreach is most effective when it is backed by compelling information, local examples of impacts, and well-reasoned conclusions (all trademarks of planners).

The Legislative Committee would like to call on you for assistance towards our common goals by reaching out to your representatives when needed. You can check the legislative tab of the APA-NC webpage to find tools on finding out who your representatives are and how to contact them. We also attach the following suggestions for effective outreach and relationship-building:

  1. Convince yourself first by weighing the evidence and arguments. You won’t be convincing to others if you are not personally convinced of the rightness of your position.
  2. Be recognized as a credible, reliable, and readily available source of accurate information. This is one of, if not the most important, element of a strong legislative program. If you are a credible and reliable source of information, your legislator will call upon you even if you haven’t built a strong relationship. Use real life or local examples of how the pending legislation affects your community.
  3. Never, ever, ever provide wrong or inaccurate information. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and offer to get back with requested information. Never guess or provide questionable answers. It is nearly impossible to recover credibility after supplying misinformation. Contact a colleague or a member of the Legislative Committee if unsure. We can help!
  4. The information you provide should help the legislator meet their personal political goals. Share with the legislators any knowledge of opposition to your issue or legislation and why. Don’t try to hide anything. The more informed they are the more effective they can be.
  5. Always be respectful and courteous to an elected official regardless of your feelings.

These guidelines will help you be a positive force for planning in North Carolina.

Thank you for all you do to make North Carolina a great place to live and work! Thank you for taking the time to contact your representatives when we need to advocate for our good planning. AND, a very special thank you to Lauren Simmons, who has served as Secretary of the Legislative Committee for the last several years. Lauren is pursuing new planning opportunities in Colorado. We all wish her the best and thank her for her years of dedicate service to the Legislative Committee and to good planning in North Carolina. She will be sorely missed.