Way Outside the Beltway TV is back with Washington State's czarina of Lobby Day, the fabulous Jennifer Meisner. Hear all about her meeting with Mark Rupp, the D.C. chief of staff for Governor Chris Gregoire.
I’ve only been on the Hill for a few hours, and already I’ve learned several important lessons.
Number One: Heavily starched white shirts and grayscale suits comprise the unspoken dress code for gentlemen on the Hill. Apparently, no one got the memo (as I did) that purple is the new black this season. Geez, folks.
Number Two: The vending machines in the congressional building hallways should be nominated as Wonders of the World, as they accept all major credit cards, dispense both hot and cold food items, and sell household items and DVDs.
Number Three: All the stories you hear about the “Hill buzz” are absolutely true. This is, after all, the natural habitat of our lawmakers and their overworked, bleary–eyed staff. So, to join in the fun, I asked my lunch crew of Team Way Outside the Beltwayers to chime in with some of the interesting things they’ve seen, heard and said in their meetings so far today.
Mary Rossi: “I was pleased with Rep. Larsen’s staffer and his level of engagement with my team. And, we learned that the Omnibus Bill will be the same in the Senate as it is in the House. Surprise!”
Flo Lentz: “I was pleased to hear that Preserve America funding may be secure this year after all!”
Joan Murray Simpson: “In my meeting with Rep. Baird’s staffers, I emphasized the fact that there is a dedicated historic preservation fund with $2.7 billion in funds.”
Sonya A. Quitslund: “I was encouraged that the Community Restoration and Revitalization Act will be reintroduced next month. It will extend the 20% tax credit to smaller projects. That will further promote housing and economic development.”
Chris Moore: “I met with Rep. Baird’s staff and the legislation side for Rep. McDermott. It always amazes me how sympathetic and engaged the staffers are to our issues, even if they are not that familiar with them. After my first two meetings, I am hopeful the House mark-ups for the Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grant programs will be retained.”
And with that, I would like to share my favorite moment so far (the blogger gets a voice too!). Joan (quoted above) was telling me and a few newbie team members about her former career as a small town mayor. After explaining how rewarding and challenging that time in her life was, she looked down at her near-empty iced coffee and said with a sigh, “Yeah, I’ve really been trying to get out of politics.”
As hundreds of hardcore lobbyists and frenzied Hill staffers literally scarfed down their made-to-go salads and sandwiches around us, I couldn’t help but playfully say with a smile, “Yeah, not sure that is ever going to happen.”
Literally minutes after the door swung open from her first Hill meeting ever (and she was also the lead!), I snagged Mary Rossi for a quick one-on-one next to one of the only sources of natural light that we could find.
And Suzy Staffer and Congressman Stuffington, too.
No, I haven't gone crazy and these aren't my imaginary friends. They're all characters from an advocacy 101 skit that I had the privilege of taking in yesterday as the training portion of Preservation Lobby Day 2009 kicked off in grand style. Today, I'll be following Team Way Outside the Beltwayers as they complete an all-day, twelve-meeting marathon on what will be my first real trip to Capitol Hill. Here are just some of the notes I scribbled down as I tried to figure out what to expect:
- Wear comfy shoes, as some of the buildings on Capitol Hill are far apart and downright cavernous by design.
- Be a big time early bird. Remember that you'll have to be screened by security in every building you enter, and those lines can be up to 20-30 minutes long sometimes. Also, build in time to get lost. The office numbers/locations are unpredictable at best, especially for first-timers.
- Because many Hill staffers are fresh out of their college poly sci classes, you might find yourself in a meeting with someone who looks like they aren't a day over 21. It's not a bad thing, especially if it puts you in the role of educator. Just be mentally prepared for what can be an initial curveball.
- Do your homework. Things to pay close attention to are voting records, congressional committee memberships and personal interests. If you forget or don't have time, ask a few quick questions while all the hands are still shaking.
- Don't expect that you'll get a full hour. In truth, fifteen or so minutes is average (and sufficient if you play your cards right).
- For staffers, if you're wavering between first name only and Mr. or Ms. X, just ask. It's totally okay to do so.
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One-sheeters and leave-behinds? Check. Perfected elevator speech? Check. Shoes that can be slipped on and off quickly when passing through security? Check. Unwavering passion for all things preservation? Duh!
Preservation Lobby Day 2009 is here, and my time with the Washington State delegation (which from this point forward will only be referred to by their adopted nickname, Team Way Outside the Beltwayers) got off to an action-packed start today during our advocacy training (and veritable lobbying pep rally). Hopefully you saw last week's post announcing that we'll be following them from meeting to meeting during their time here in D.C. If not, check it out and then head over to PreservationNation.org to meet the entire team.
The marathon (and that's not just a figure of speech; I'm told there is often some running involved) of meetings starts tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM, and we'll be live from Capitol Hill until about 5:30.
So, check out the pictures above and stay tuned as we hit the Hill!