Organize Your Resolution Group
Find members of your community that have volunteered via aligned campaigns or reach out to others you know who care about this issue.
- Once you have the support of at least one other person, you are ready to go. The rest of the folks will come.
- Meet regularly to keep on track. Long spaces in between meetings slow down momentum and can ensure death for the resolution. Keep meetings short and on task, with socializing at the end to give folks an opportunity to leave if they want to. People get frustrated if they take their time to meet and nothing “gets done”.
- Once you have a core of individuals, start putting together informational pages that can be handed out in your community so more can join you. When you hear of community events, find out who is giving them and if you can have an information table there.
Reach out to community groups to see if you can speak about your issue to garner more support. Start building an email list and/or create a Facebook page, inviting your community to join you so that you can succeed in getting your resolution passed. Get a table at your farmer’s market or stand in front of your health food store to talk to folks about what you are trying to do. This is the way movements are built!! It’s also the way you find more volunteers to support the issue.
Know Your Community
Your First Major Decision
Every community is different. The mix of elected officials, mayors, city councilpersons, and county commissioners may be progressive, conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between. They may be open to new ideas or closed to changing the status quo. Your locale may be rural, suburban, or inner-city. Your group will need to decide how receptive your local government will be to your ordinance. Collect information about the members of the City or County Council. Get informed about which members of the Council are most concerned about your issues and may be willing to support, if not sponsor, the resolution. Also, figure out what people or groups have leverage over council members who may not initially lend support for the resolution. Find out who tends to vote in a certain direction or is a swing voter on similar issues.
The degree of receptivity will determine your strategy. It could be a 2 month or two year process. In some communities, it may be enough to speak personally with the mayor and a few commissioners to ensure the passage of your resolution. Other communities may require extensive organizing, a petition and a massive publicity effort to pass. Consider who might be open to the goals of your ordinance or resolution. Sometimes it may be a good idea to let some of your city or county commissioners know what you are doing before presenting your ordinance. They may have helpful observations that can make your efforts easier. Others may find it best to involve councilpersons as little as possible until your ordinance is brought before the full commission.
Most communities have seasoned political workers and activists who supports Good Food issues. Even if they are not willing to actively work with you on this, they will most likely spend an hour with you to give you the lay of the political landscape in your community. This information will prove invaluable. Use it.
Networking – Identify Friends and Foes
Identify your friends and foes. Make a list of individuals, groups, and organizations that are willing to work with you on your effort. Talk to other the other specific outreach groups in your areas (ie Moms, Healthcare workers, farmers, etc.). If someone in your group knows someone in another group or organization, ask that person to contact a potential ally if they haven’t already endorsed the campaign. Keep a list of folks who have filled out the official “endorsement” form and give the url to our website so folks can go there to see all the local endorsements on your county endorsement page.
Similarly, make a list of individuals and organizations that are likely to work against your efforts. It’s important to know who your detractors are and what their arguments are likely to be. Strategies can be developed to minimize or marginalize your opposition or to respond to their arguments. See the document: How To Respond To Detractors and Opposition.
Whether support or opposition, keep track of all so you are prepared when you go before your council or board.
Finding Your Champion
Schedule informal meeting(s) with your local council members. Once you arrange a meeting, try to organize as diverse a group as possible to represent your cause. By involving a wide range of coalition partners in the discussion, you demonstrate that your issue has community support. At the meeting, make a strong case for why the resolution is important and why the city should pass it.
Make contact with other officials. "Lobbying" is just a fancy word for letting your elected officials know how you feel about an issue. Communicating with your representatives is a right, not a privilege. You should make sure all the representatives on the city council have a packet of information about your resolution. Try to get constituents from different districts to arrange meetings with their representatives to show support for the resolution.
Present evidence of public support to the council members. Bring an information packet that includes
- Fact Sheet on your issue
- Copy of the initiative/resolution with a FAQ on the main issues questioned
- Copy of local organizations who have already endorsed
- List of CA city councils and boards of supervisors that have already passed similar resolutions
- If you did a petition, have a copy of it for them to read and all the signed petitions. It helps.
Once you find your champion, get them to introduce the resolution to the council for a vote.
Chart the political landscape with them. When meeting with your champion, ask them to predict which members of the city council are likely to support or oppose the resolution. Knowing your allies and opponents will help you in your campaign. Ask what your group can do so support his/her efforts.
If your champion feels it’s a good idea, have your group visit the other council members. We find that many city councils, even if they don’t agree with the issue, respond to their constituents much more than the state or national level of government. We need to show our numbers. They need to see that all sorts of “normal” constituents want strong, local food systems. Have influential people or groups call or visit members that need to be moved to support the resolution
Work with your Champion.
Be aware that your city council or board or other body can change the resolution you gave them to suit their own preferences, so it pays to be strategic from the outset to ensure that what is passed is what you want. Pick a champion you trust, who get the issue and is committed to it.
Ask your champion if your resolution is one that will have a majority of support. If not, ask what changes they think might shift support.
Introducing your Resolution To The Board Or Council
Identify key people to testify in support of the resolution at the meeting when the council will be debating the resolution. It’s great to have a large contingency of supporters go to the council meeting, some there to speak, others to demonstrate support.
A few things to keep in mind for those who feel passionate and want to comment at the meeting:
- Officials like to hear from “experts”. In this case, that means doctors, farmers, scientists, food industry people, local business people in the ag, gardening, food industry and other ancillary industries (hotels, entertainment, travel, etc).
- The above does not mean that they don’t want to hear from consumers, moms, etc, so let your voices be heard…after all…your community voted them in.
- When speaking, remember to be on point, be positive and show the economic, social, health and community benefits of whatever it is that you are trying to pass.
Be respectful of opposition remarks and the people who say them. There is nothing that discredits a movement more than being rude or disrespectful. It’s helpful to read up on the art of nonviolent communication. We have to keep our integrity. This does not mean we can’t be passionate, but be polite and do NOT make any personal or rude remarks or noises.
It also helps to go up to the opposition after the meeting and tell them that this is not personal and thank them if they have been particularly brave (for instance in being the only voice of dissent in the audience..it takes guts to stand up in that environment.) Remain human. If we do not build bridges, this movement isn’t worth it.
- Look presentable. You are representing this movement.
TIP: Members of the coalition should be prepared to attend City or County Council meetings and testify publicly on behalf of the resolution. And remember to keep the media informed about your activities, about council votes and certainly about your success!
TIP: If the members of your council or board are unresponsive, don’t give up! Develop a strategy to sway them. Identify constituents or organizations that have influence over these officials. Approach them and ask them to join your effort. If you feel that another nearby community might be easier to start with, consider teaming up with residents of that community to pass a resolution there first. Sometimes elected officials are scared to jump out in front of an issue, and it makes it easier if they’re not the only ones.
If the Council Or Board Defers A Vote To The Next Meeting
Before the meeting:
Expand the base of support. As the date of the vote approaches, make sure you are working with residents across the city and asking them to call or write their representatives in support of the resolution. Constituents throughout your town should be contacting their representatives on the city council.
Have community members comment on the rep’s Facebook and/or Twitter page. Staff watch those as do the reps themselves.
Organize community-wide "call-in" days during which people from every neighborhood will call their representatives in support of the resolution. If a particular representative is opposed to the resolution, do targeted outreach in the neighborhood/district they represent.
Cover all the bases. In some cases, especially with binding resolutions, committees or subcommittees will consider the resolution before the full city council does. Make sure you attend these meetings and present the argument for your resolution during the public comments section of any hearings. Have the community contact these members during the committee evaluation so they have a sense of how important this issue is to the public.
On the day your resolution is going to be voted on, make sure the meeting chambers are filled with supporters of your resolution. Wear the same colored shirts or pins or, if your meeting allows it, bring colorful and eye-catching signs to show support for the resolution. Encourage supporters to speak in favor of the resolution during the public comments section, and make sure you have a few people ready with prepared remarks. The day of the vote is your final chance to show that the community really cares about your issue.
If you did a public petition, that ________ # of people in your town signed the petition.
Be sure that people bring up differing points as you don’t usually have much time and you want the whole picture painted, not just a few talking points.
Writing the endorsement:
A basic guildline for writing resolutions:
Title of Your Resolution
What your group is
Whereas: this is where you identify one problem that needs to be addressed or solved; and
Whereas: only place one reason or fact that supports your argument in each whereas paragraph; and
Whereas: only put facts in the whereas paragraphs that make it easier for the reader to understand the purpose of your resolution. Personal opinion is not fact – prove the need. Therefore be it
Resolved: this is where you clearly state the primary action that you propose to solve the problem you identified in the whereas paragraphs. This statement should stand alone, making any action required understood and complete, even if the reader never sees the whereas paragraphs. and be it further
Resolved: any secondary actions to address the problem are placed here and in further resolves. Ideally, each resolve paragraph will have a separate and complete call to action.
As an example, this is a resolution presented and passed for the National Organization For Women in 2011
Whereas polls show that 72- 95% Americans want genetically engineered foods labeled; federal GMO labeling legislation introduced numerous times since 1999 has not gotten out of committee; the labeling of genetically engineered (cloned animal products) food was attempted in California but was vetoed in 2008; The California State Grange unsuccessfully tried to get a legislator to sponsor a labeling bill in 2009; in 2011 AB 88 (labeling of genetically engineered fish) was shelved because it could not make it out of the Appropriations committee
Whereas documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act clearly indicate FDA scientists were alarmed with their agency allowing genetically engineered crops and foods to enter the market citing potential untested health risks but the head of the FDA (and a former biotech employee) chose to label GMOs “substantially equivalent”, thereby negating the requirement of labeling for transgenic organisms
Whereas while independent research on animals points to increased allergies, gastrointestinal diseases, autoimmune disorders, pancreatic, spleen, and liver dysfunction, and the FDA still does not require rigorous testing of long term health risks to animals and humans, or a policy of an abundance of caution in releasing these products on the market for human consumption
Whereas potential health risks cannot be tracked because there is no link to the potential hazard when genetically engineered foods are not labeled
Whereas consumers are denied their right to avoid a product they question as safe to their health because there are no labels on GMO products; and are required to pay for being part of a long term experiment that they have not given formal, informed consent and permission
Whereas we believe a consumer’s right to informed choice supersedes corporate rights to a nontransparent profit
Therefore, we support The Committee For the Right To Know (California Recipient Committee #1337480) in their efforts to qualify a California Ballot Initiative in 2012 that would require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Resolution presented and passed at the California State Grange Convention, November 2011
TITLE: LABELING GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD
PROPOSED BY: OJAI VALLEY GRANGE NO. 659 AND POMONA 50
WHEREAS: Californians have a right to know if they are eating and feeding their children and animals genetically modified food (GMOs) that has been shown to cause liver and kidney toxicity in rats; and
WHEREAS: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with the duty to determine the safety of genetically engineered (GE) crops; and
WHEREAS: Data submitted by Monsanto Corporation to the FDA and obtained through lawsuits by the European Committee for Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) showed the only toxicological tests done on GMOs resulted in liver and kidney toxicity to rats and other serious toxic effects fed two forms of genetically modified Bt corn for only 90 days; and
WHEREAS: Producers of GMOs claim that standard toxicity studies including multigenerational tests following the effects on blood and organ parameters are too expensive to do; and
WHEREAS: A 2012 ballot initiative is being organized at the grassroots to defend the right to know what is in food products and to protect especially children from potential health risks through mandatory labeling of GMOs in food ; therefore be it
RESOLVED: That the CSG opposes FDA approval of GE crops for human consumption unless third party toxicity studies of minimum two years duration of animals and their offspring prove they are safe; and be it further
RESOLVED: That the CSG advocates for clear product labeling of all GMOs in food, and be it further
RESOLVED: That the CSG supports the 2012 California ballot initiative that would enact a state law requiring the labeling of GMOs in food.