For the Children:
Be a Citizen-Lobbyist for Oklahoma’s Kids
By OICA CEO Joe Dorman
With our first Child Advocacy Day coming up on Wednesday, May 10, I want to provide insight on how citizen advocates can make a difference. Many folks, especially those who work during regular business hours, cannot take time off from their jobs. If you are unable to join us on Wednesday, you can still plan your own outreach to support our effort to help the children of Oklahoma.
Speaking as a former legislator, it is nice to receive contact from the district. One misconception that many folks make is to call themselves a constituent of an elected official who does not represent them. A constituent is a person who lives within the region in which the elected official represents. Be sure to know who represents you in all elected offices!
Email is often the most effective way to contact legislators. You will have a limited time should you have the chance to visit in-person or over the phone, so email can provide greater amounts of information and it also allows you to shape your words ahead of time. When emailing legislators, make sure to include personal insight or anecdotes if a policy issue has directly impacted you in the past. A form letter or email does not carry much strength when hundreds of folks are sending the same identical message. Craft your own views and explain why support is needed in your own words. You can find a list of email addresses for legislators at oica.org
If you can visit with an elected official in person, it is very important to plan ahead. You will want to set an appointment with your elected officials to ensure they will be there during your trip. Do not just drop by and expect to see them as they might be in a meeting or working on an issue. Extend that courtesy to let them know you are coming by and it increases the likelihood that you will indeed have a chance to visit.
In some instances, the elected official might not agree with you. You do not want to walk away from a meeting with hurt feelings on either side, so be respectful and stick to the facts. If they do not support your position, thank them for the time and spend your efforts with other elected officials who might be willing to support your views. You might need support on another issue later on from someone who does not agree on the current issue, so do not burn that bridge!
If visiting officials at their Capitol office, plan on parking in either the main parking lot south of the building or the spillover lot to the east by the Governor’s Mansion. You will also want to know your way around the building and if it is your first time, check out the great sites to see. I recorded a video of a walking tour of the state capitol building years ago, so check it out before your trip:
I hope these tips help you be a better citizen lobbyist. We need advocates who are willing to share their ideas and encourage elected officials to support the best plans brought forth for the children of Oklahoma. Please join OICA in being a part of the solution!