Local and Personal Action
Please see our resources page for tool kits and other resources.
Building local support has several parts: building community, building awareness, contacting authorities, avoiding pitfalls, and working towards legislative or legal changes.
Build Community & Awareness
When raising awareness, please invite others to join Last Tree Laws in support of our legislation, petition initiatives, and other work.
- Host a neighborhood movie and educational party on an issue. A list of movies is available at Environmental Health Trust - our one concern with Generation Zapped is a disagreement over the safety of internet over home wiring. Or ask us to help you host or design an event.
- Drop off flyers at the local library - please use one which mentions Last Tree Laws and our work. See our resources page.
- Write a letter to the editor, mention the representatives' names, and mention relevant legislation or other political action.
- Speak with local parent/guardian groups and other local citizen groups. Mention our work or invite us to speak!
- Knock on doors and leave a letter of invitation on a neighborhood issue or flyers in people's doors or newspaper boxes and on bulletin boards. Do not put flyers in mailboxes: it is illegal.
- Join local social media forums.
- Reserve a table at local events to share flyers and information.
- Write a relevant letter to the editor--please mention our site and interweave the names of your representatives (so they read it, too).
- Invite others to meet with and help you.
- Share our site and newsletter (pending) with others and post a link on your website or social media page, if you have one.
- Be active in associations such as the Women's League of Voters or political parties, and get your concerns on the table and into political debates.
- Invite your town officials and legislators to events.
Identifying Local Authorities
To share information, identify local authorities to contact, such as the following:
- On the town website, identify governing officials (mayor, city council members, etc.) and dates of regularly scheduled meetings - add to your calendar.
- On the town website, identify relevant committees (disability, environment, public health, school, etc.) - add as desired to your calendar.
- On the state website for the secretary of state, identify state-wide and local officials, including where to vote. In Massachusetts, information on a number of state-wide entities and officials can be found here. Biographies are given for some of the officials on their pages, which can be useful.
- You can also check GovTrack.us to find information on who are your elected officials for the state, and find more information on those officials (funding, social media, etc.) on the legislative page for each official.
Local Authorities Approach
- Attend town and state government forums to share information as these can provide valuable contacts and publicity. Even just attending regularly helps to build relationships and awareness.
- Share topic in town meeting as a short time is usually allowed to speak informally.
- Add topic to town meeting agenda with an advance request to discuss a topic with the town as a whole. Always check with the city clerk or relevant party (city council assistant, etc.) in advance for permission and timelines.
- Ordinance or Resolution: Identify town council or relevant board to request specific support for an ordinance or other action. Be sure to inform the town lawyer in advance, to allow preparations.
- Follow your town and state officials on social media in order to share information and establish contact - for federal officials, also follow any federal bills on GovTrack.US in relation to your elected officials.
- For state officials, make specific requests to write testimony in support of bills, budget with concerns in mind, and to sponsor legislation (senators can still sponsor legislation in the 2021-2022 session).
Presenting to Local Officials
When presenting, keep it short, sweet, and complete. Officials and listeners may never have read or heard anything on the subject - even if you sent it by email or mail.
Here are some other tips:
- If possible, bring others to stand with you or speak in support, or bring a copy of a petition with local signatures.
- Prepare for time provided to be cut short.
- Introduce yourself, and please reference Last Tree Laws as a member or for relevant legislation.
- Start with a two-minute speech ready to cover all main points, in case presentation time is cut short.
- Request follow-up at the next meeting if more time is desired to study the issue.
- Keep handouts short to respect the time and choices of city/town representatives.
- Coordinate with others presenting to share different information.
- Ask for concrete support from the town or city or local official, such as letters to specific persons, ordinances, and/or resolutions.
Attitude & Pitfalls
Please see the following posts:
Making human connections as an individual is a good way to avoid the problems discussed in the warnings above. Here are a few more tips:
- Speak to Legislators 1-to-1. Speaking privately one-to-one with your personal legislators appears more helpful to being heard – we know first-hand some legislators do not read emails due to the number incoming! If you cannot speak well, then bring writings and bring a group of constituents to help. Take the time to truly educate one or two legislators, since public hearings often limit speaking time to 3 minutes per person and can be disjointed. Also, speaking in person is much better because technology fails to be reliable.
- Support ideas first, secondly support bills that support those ideas. Avoid signing on in favor of “great” bills that can be changed later anyway, behind closed doors, and stick instead to signing on in support of explicitly stated concrete ideas.
- Read the bills and ordinances. Don’t just rely on secondhand information. Look through the bills, for the devil is in the details. Bill titles are usually sweet-sounding propaganda – look at the details.
- Problem guidance. When signing onto shared testimony or using templates, be careful. Some advocates mistakenly or naively highlight problem bills as solutions - all of us have made mistakes. See this blog post on bad bills for lemmings.
- Speak for yourself. When the poor, elderly, sick, and other marginalized groups struggle with time and ability to speak, others with easier lives step in to do so. Those others may have less concern, less problem, and more interest in the status quo thanks to easier, more comfortable lives. Let others speak for themselves. If others speak for you, be sure that speech is as agreed and is verifiable – since what is behind the scenes or in email may be different. Where possible, use your own powerful voice.
- Co-opting advocacy & movements. People offering help may be self-interested, seeking only fame, employment, sales, an industry, property, et cetera, and may not have the same or sincere concerns. Also, once FBI strategy under Edgar Hoover was to select individuals to infiltrate, create division, take over leadership, censor dissent, and tone down and redirect movements, including by offering paid work opportunities and wasting opportunities. Where threatened, industry or anyone, really, may follow the FBI playbook. Be wise when working on sensitive topics. You may need to bring issues to the sunlight.
- Behind closed doors. If a spokesperson speaks on behalf of the group behind closed doors, what is being said? If mass emails are sent, is there oversight?
- Collaboration. Does the group or organization focus on the goals, and encourage collaboration, even connections between members and set aside personal gain to work with outsiders?
- Recognition. Many people work on these issues for free and work hard – failure to provide generous recognition and support increases the pain of doing so and pushes away volunteers.
- Personal Sincerity. Compliments may be given for show or flattery, and even be meant to draw an mean comparison. Kindness may be false, extending only for a favor or failing for the powerless. Or, mistakes may be innocent. What do you think? Who is sincere?