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Advocacy

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Published on Thursday, December 12, 2013

2014 Legislative session just a month away

5 steps to “Take Action for Cities” prior to session

The happiest of holidays to you! Amidst your holiday activities and year-end projects, a critical responsibility of city officials is to advocate for both AWC’s and your city priorities prior to and during the upcoming state legislative session.

The Legislature convenes January 13, 2014 for what is hoped will be a short 60-day session. We need all 281 cities – the more than 2,000 city elected officials and thousands of dedicated employees who represent them across the state – to use your collective voice and “Take Action for Cities.

The AWC Board just affirmed our “Take Action for Cities” agenda that aims squarely at helping cities stay strong. In recent legislative sessions, the historic fiscal partnership between the State and cities – where dramatically increasing percentages of Washingtonians live and work – was seriously undermined by a combination of diverted resources critical for local infrastructure, an expanding list of unfunded transportation projects and a lack of agreement to adjust or better fund mandates. These trends are unsustainable if cities are to remain viable and provide livable communities for the additional 750,000 people estimated to reside and work here in the next 10 years.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to connect with legislators while they are still home in their districts. Over the next month, cities can “Take Action for Cities” through five steps which will help unify officials around your city’s priorities, engage your state legislators and mobilize your community leaders to support your agenda prior to session:

  1. Register for AWC’s annual legislative conference, City Action Days, January 29-30, 2014: Registration is now open and additional information is available. We need you to join us and take action for cities! A unified chorus of voices is needed now more than ever to protect revenues, make sense of our state’s marijuana laws, and halt infrastructure fund raids.
  2. Unify your officials through your own 2014 City Legislative Agenda: It’s not too late for your city to establish its own 2014 Legislative Agenda. This process helps unify your officials and keeps everyone literally on the same page. Your agenda can be a relatively short and focused one-page handout that includes AWC’s priority issues, with your city’s logo and website address, key contact information and some local flavor about the import of state funding for infrastructure, transportation and city services in your community. Some cities formally adopt their agendas through Council action (which could still occur in early/mid-January), while others prepare a letter to legislators from the Mayor. You also can consider sharing your agenda with the media through a public meeting, social media and/or a media release. AWC can share with you sample legislative agendas from other cities. What’s important is that legislators have a clear sense of your local concerns.
  3. Engage your legislators: Set up individual meetings with legislators, both prior to session and while you are in Olympia on January 29-30 for City Action Days. Pre-session meetings can be at City Hall or in a local coffee shop, or perhaps near a transportation or infrastructure project your community is trying to fund. AWC has assembled some tips on setting up meetings with legislators, including key times during City Action Days.
  4. Mobilize key leaders to support your community’s legislative priorities: Many cities hold breakfasts, lunches or meetings at the local chamber of commerce for local legislators to join city officials and key community leaders to review and discuss your city’s legislative priorities. It works just as well at the local coffee shop. The week prior to session, January 6-10, could work well for such a meeting. This also provides your legislators a forum to share their priorities for the session. Setting up an informal group meeting where city officials can “join forces” with business and other key community leaders to highlight community priorities will strengthen the power of your communications.
  5. Organize a communications plan for regular contact with your legislators through the session: Consider regularly-scheduled conference calls with some or all of your legislators. Some cities do these on a weekly or bi-weekly basis – frequently less than a half hour in the morning, and some include their chamber and local labor leadership, key education or other civic leaders in the calls. Establishing a communications plan prior to session will help limit “phone or e-mail tag” and will keep your community on top-of-the-mind for your legislators on a consistent basis.

Our updated Advocacy Guide offers tips and suggestions on proven ways to connect with your legislators and community leaders who can support your city’s legislative priorities. AWC will help support you in your advocacy efforts with tools, materials, meeting support, strategic guidance and the direct advocacy of our legislative staff.

There’s no better time than now to “Take Action for Cities” and engage your legislators, and mobilize your community leaders to support your city’s legislative priorities. You are a critical voice in convincing legislators that strong cities are at the heart of a great state.

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