Author Archive

Top Ten Tips From a Lobby Day Vet

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

When Team Way Outside the Beltwayers first debuted on PreservationNation.org, I answered "too long ago to remember" to the bio question that asked how long ago I had been recruited to represent the State of Washington at Lobby Day.

It has, in fact, been a while, and I've picked up a tip here and there over the years. This morning, in anticipation of in-district lobby month (May is just around the corner, you know?), I want to share my top ten list with you.

1 - They work for us. Representative Norm Dicks told me this many years ago. Don’t be nervous about talking to your elected officials. They work for you and they respond to you.

2 - Know your stuff. There is no substitute for competence. If you are competent, you inspire confidence. If elected are confident in your information, then you’ve just won influence.

3 - Prioritize your asks. Each state should decide what they’re asking for. We can’t ask for everything or the message will be diluted. Determine what aspects of the national agenda are most important to you and your state.

4 - Tie your ask for a national priority back to the local district. For Washington, we give information on Preserve America grants, Save America's Treasures grants, etc. Let them know what those programs are doing back home.

5 - Try to have someone from the district in the meeting as a lead. If this can’t happen, the statewide or SHPO becomes the best person to lead the conversation.

6 - Get cards for follow-up. Staffers are extremely important, and relationships built with them pay dividends.

7 - Don’t dismiss staffers because they look like they’re 12. They often recycle into more senior-level positions with the elected official, or they go on to work with other elected officials or committees. Regardless, they can help you down the road, so ask where they’re from and try to make a connection with them.

8 - Schedule a meeting with your governor’s representative or chief of staff in Washington, D.C. They can provide invaluable advice about your delegation, and it’s good to have them up to speed.

9 - Value the time you’re given. Get to the point quickly. Make the ask. Try to get the member or the staffer talking. Ask them for feedback.

10 - Understand that lobbying is theater. The guts of advocacy happen at the district and state level. Get to know your local office staffers. Invite them to events. Take them on tours. Lobby Day is meant to convey the extent of the support for historic preservation, but it's not an end in itself. The real value of Lobby Day is building state advocacy networks, getting participants familiar with national issues, and building relationships with members and their staffers. The real work always happens back home.

- Mary Thompson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Mary Thompson is a preservation consultant and a member of the National Trust’s Board of Trustees. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Lobbying is Like a Box of Chocolates

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Preservation Lobby Day comes full circle when you share your experiences and enthusiasm with your friends and neighbors back home, which is why I always prepare a long and short version of my tips, take-aways and observations. In the interest of time (I know you have other blogs to read this morning), I’ll share the latter.

First of all, everything you’ve heard on this blog and elsewhere about needing to have a canned elevator speech that you can rattle off at the drop of a hat is 100% true. Whether you’re on the Hill or in your mayor’s office, that quick, no-holds-barred appeal is one of the most important tools you can have in your back pocket. For instance, between our Hill visits this year, I happened to spy Congressman Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and a lieutenant at the North Bend police precinct while I served as mayor) as he scurried across the walkway between the Capitol and the House office buildings. We had a great, spur-of-the-moment conversation about home and how historic preservation makes a real difference to the economy in his district. He pledged his support and said he would review our requests – all in about three minutes as other hurried staffers and lobbyists dodged us on the sidewalk!

Also, always anticipate setbacks and curveballs. One year, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn was late for her appointment with our group, but she called requesting that we hang around for a while. Turns out, she had been unexpectedly called to the White House to meet with the president! She only kept us waiting for about half an hour, and we had a productive and enlightening conversation upon her return.

Most importantly, don’t leave a meeting without looking your elected officials (or their staffers) straight in the eye and telling them what you believe. Grab every opportunity you get, but don’t waste their time. As a former mayor, I can’t begin to tell you how effective this simple strategy can be.

And of course, be prepared for anything (and everything). After all, lobbying is like a box of chocolates…

Happy hunting.

- Joan Murray Simpson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Joan Murray Simpson is a preservation enthusiast and the former mayor of North Bend, Washington. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

March Madness has reached fever pitch at Washington High School, but I’m not talking about basketball.

You see, as soon as the afternoon bell sounds tomorrow, I (and all of my fellow Research History classmates) will officially be on Spring Break. And, as if the recurring daydreams about a week of uninterrupted bliss (no offense, Mr. LaRue) weren’t distracting enough, we’re also dealing with the constant background noise of banging furniture and packing tape. Why? Because Washington High School is moving…next door.

That’s right, when we return from vacation, we’ll report to an entirely new school building. Right now, we’re cramped in what has always felt like a makeshift home that was thrown together in 1968. Currently, you can find us fifth period Research History students held up in an upstairs math classroom vying for any unoccupied computers. During this particular period, Mr. LaRue teaches an overcrowded economics class, and has no real time or space for us. Rumor has it that, at the new school, there will be enough space in his room to house both the economic students and us Research History folks in harmony. And hey, more space and better technology means more blogging…

Earlier this week, I got to tour the new castle…I mean campus. Though I’m not a huge fan of graduating from a school that I’ve only attended for a few weeks, the new digs are pretty impressive when you consider how cramped we are now (see photos above from our updated Flickr photostream). However, there are rules about everything (stairs, doors, etc.), and there are surveillance cameras peeping out from everywhere. Oh, and no food either, which isn’t good news for Mr. LaRue and his animal crackers and banana bread.

Good or bad, all of this change (moving from a strange place to one that, in some ways, feels even stranger) has made my classmates and I look back at our middle school, which is a historic building across town that was built in 1913. We all (minus Marci, who joined us last year from a different school) love the beautiful and inspiring atmosphere of that building. We are so happy that it is being kept in use because that’s where we changed from little kids to teenagers.

I look back and remember in sixth grade when I basically broke my leg and had to wear an immobilizer. Between each and every class, I had to make my way up and down the three floors. In doing so, I definitely got to know the place, which is a good thing. Bryan really loves the band room there, and Brittney remembers sitting in the art room and drawing on those old, “artsy” desks. And we all loved kicking back in the auditorium for our reward movie days for not missing school.

Long story short, there are features of that school that you just won’t find anywhere else – including the shiny new castle. But change happens, and in addition to encouraging us to look back, it’s also prompting us to look forward. Graduation is not too far around the corner, and we’re all feeling excited, nervous and maybe even scared to death.

But whatever, that’s another topic for another blog. For now, it’s time for Spring Break.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, she'll be working with her Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Lobby Day 2009: Bringing It Home

Posted on: March 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

A week and some change after returning from Preservation Lobby Day in D.C., the buzz of Capitol Hill continues to reverberate in the offices of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Being a part of the collective effort to educate legislators and to advocate for historic resources in our nation’s capital was not only a rewarding experience, but a gratifying shot in the arm that others, elsewhere, share our vision and recognize the good work we all do.

But when the feel-good adrenalin dissipates, there is always the realization that D.C. is simply the first act in a preservation drama that unfolds annually - the need for more funding, better policies and increased attention on historic resources. The follow-up, then, is key for our future success. Fortunately, in Washington State (as is the case in all states), we have wonderful examples of how historic preservation is making a difference in our quality of life, in our environment and in the bottom-line for our budgets.

In pitching our case on Capitol Hill, the Washington Trust and our lobbying delegation provided legislators with specific examples from each of our congressional districts - preservation projects that are either currently underway or that have been recently completed. I look forward to inviting those same legislators and their in-district staffers to witness first hand the effects of preservation. Whether it’s donning a hard hat and touring a construction zone, spending a night in an old warehouse-turned-historic hotel, or sipping coffee in a café housed in a building that once served as a neighborhood drugstore (if caffeine is the twenty-first century cure-all, then Seattle is certainly the snake oil capital of the nation!), Washington’s legislators have ample opportunities to see preservation in action.

And so do yours.

With our recent visit to D.C. still fresh in the minds of our legislators and the debates over the FY10 federal budget beginning to swirl in the winds, the time is ripe for following-up at home. I remember how at one particular in-district meeting conducted last year, I was thrilled to point out to the legislator that the very building we were sitting in was a contributing structure within a National Register Historic District that had been rehabilitated using both state and federal incentive programs.

Now that is bringing preservation home.

- Chris Moore

Way Outside the Beltwayer Chris Moore is the field director for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about his recent trip to Capitol Hill.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

From the Shadows to the Spotlight: Memoirs of a Lobby Day First-Timer

Posted on: March 18th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

It’s a little-known fact that I’ve aspired to attend Preservation Lobby Day for at least five years now, and I must say that my first experience did not disappoint - both on a personal and a professional level. And while traveling to our nation’s capital is no small feat financially (especially for an upstart non-profit program director), I’m grateful for the generous support I received from two private donors (thanks, mom!) and from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (thanks, Trust!). I couldn’t have stormed the Hill without them.

After deciding that it made economic sense (somewhere) to make Lobby Day a priority, I registered and began to carefully plan my attack: stay in the background, listen a lot and learn from our state’s seasoned preservation heroes. After all, I was a first-timer, and plenty of Lobby Day vets from whom I could glean invaluable insights were attending. Know your role, I always say.

However, as is usually the case whenever I determine to stay comfortably in the background, things took a decided turn towards the spotlight about a week prior to my departure, and it all started with an e-mail from Jennifer Meisner, the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. I remember opening it and staring incredulously at the late-breaking announcement for a few moments: “The National Trust for Historic Preservation has selected the Washington State Delegation - traditionally one of Lobby Day’s largest - as a feature for its website, PreservationNation.org!” Evidently, Team Way Outside the Beltwayers (as we were now called) would be blogged, YouTube-ed and Flickr-ed during our trip to D.C. To make things even better, I was asked to supply a headshot (do what?!?) and to fill out a brief personal questionnaire because, of course, the National Trust wanted to “build interest among the preservation movement by introducing each individual team member.”

As my plan of attack shattered before my eyes, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh hysterically or to gasp in shock. In order to play it safe (since that was working oh so well), I did both. Breathing deeply, I filled out my profile (cleverly, I hoped, since an entire movement would be reading) and sent in a “headshot” hoping that no one would notice the “Life is Good” logo on my t-shirt. Very professional.

Next thing I knew, there was another ding from my inbox from Jennifer, this time with a color-coded spreadsheet (I can still see it) attached that listed all twelve of our meetings on the Hill. Impressive, I thought. “Oh, look…there’s my name.” “Oh, look…I’m part of the first meeting of the day, and it’s with a staffer for Representative Larsen from my home district.” “Oh look…it says ‘lead’ next to my name in big, bold letters.” It was right then and there that I realized that I was now officially zero for two on the whole staying-in-the-shadows thing; I would be holding the reigns during my first-ever meeting on Capitol Hill.

Suffice it to say that the world kept revolving during Lobby Day, despite the blinding glare of the national spotlight and the jostling of the paparazzi. In fact, the pace of the day was such that it felt like the world sped up considerably. I enjoyed every minute of the action, with the possible exception of a few very long minutes spent in the stifling Longworth cafeteria, during which I felt like a freedom fry under a heat lamp. Still, it was worth it. I felt that, no matter the outcome, our team was taking action and trying to make a difference.

Although I have now returned to the somewhat less frenetic pace of the other Washington, I continue to learn from my Lobby Day experiences, and I’m very much looking forward to some follow-up action in the form of in-district meetings. If you’re getting into the spirit of things and planning to do some local lobbying yourself (please do!), consider these tips from a first-timer before you book your first visit:

  • Always be early (you know how the old saying goes).
  • Always be flexible (yes, one of our scheduled meetings occurred in the hallway).
  • And always be thankful (an all-around good policy to have in life).
  • Do your homework. Know what projects are occurring in your city/state/district, and how the person you’re meeting with is – or should be – connected to them.
  • Don’t just make the case; have a specific “ask” in mind.
  • Enjoy the fact that you’ve accepted your responsibility to engage in the democratic process, and then do it again, and again, and…
  • Don’t be afraid to be in the spotlight because it’s good for the movement.
  • Save some energy to celebrate with your team afterwards.

If Preservation Lobby Day 2009 was any indication, our movement is growing, it’s active and it’s enthusiastic. I can’t wait to do my part again next year. I think I’ll just stay in the shadows, though…

- Mary Rossi

Way Outside the Beltwayer Marry Rossi is a cultural resource planner for Applied Preservation Technologies. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill (and her subsequent lobbying 101 crash course).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.