Calls and letters to your political reps are essential in any campaign to effect change. But Letters to the Editor can be a powerful way to reach fellow constituents, keep an issue in the public eye (and on the radar of elected officials) and influence the outcome of elections and government policy. Here are some tips from Liz Haigney Lynch on the best way to deliver your message — and get your letter published.
A Few Basics:
• Adhere to any guidelines that the publication specifies, such as maximum length.
• Mention elected officials by name, but avoid name-calling and personal attacks.
• A good rule of thumb: Critique positions, not people.
• Stay concise. 200 to 300 words is a good target.
For months, we've been trying to get Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen to hold a face-to-face town hall meeting with his constituents. He has consistently refused to hold a public meeting in the district, even when we provided the venues.
It's time to bring the voices of NJ-11 constituents to Washington DC.
On Wednesday, April 5th, join New Jersey voters from across the state for a trip to DC to visit our elected officials while Congress is in session. We will visit with members of New Jersey's congressional delegation, including Representatives and Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties, to share our support for progressive positions on healthcare, the environment, immigrants' rights, and constitutional rights, and to rally on the Capitol steps.
Sponsored by NJ 11th For Change and BluewaveNJ, buses will depart from Montclair and Morristown at 7 AM, with additional locations to be added based on demand. Buses will return at approximately 9 PM.
We hope you'll join us. For more information and to reserve your seat, click here.
Call to Action!
After canceling due to the snowstorm, Rep. Frelinghuysen will be holding his next "telephone town hall" Monday.
Make no mistake -- a short telephone meeting where our congressman's staff vets the questions before they are asked and followup questions are cut off does not replace the need for a face-to-face public forum. But we can be ready to press him for answers. Some callers have been more successful than others in respectfully resisting Rep. Frelinghuysen's attempts at brush-offs and evasions. How did they do it? Below are tips on how to prepare relevant, well-informed questions and follow up effectively. We've also included a rundown of what our representative has been up to so you'll be equipped to ask timely questions. We hope you'll join us on the call Tuesday night to insist that our elected representative answer the questions of his constituents.
1. Sign up for the call here.
2. Prepare your questions in advance. Post them our Facebook page to share with others and for feedback. We'll be posting live updates on the call on Twitter @nj11forchange. Engage with us and share your thoughts and reactions to the call as it happens! Only 10-15 constituents are likely to have a chance to ask their questions, so let's work together to make sure that the questions that are asked are as detailed and specific as possible.
3. Our Congressman is the chair of the House Appropriations committee. This makes him one of the most powerful and important members of Congress, as he is in charge of approving all budgetary matters. Ask questions related to his position as appropriations chair when possible. For example, will he or won't he defund the Coast Guard? Will he or won't he cut the EPA by 30%? A statement from Rodney Frelinghuysen about not funding the border wall or not cutting the EPA could stop that legislation in his tracks.
You can hear the audio version of the Tele Town Hall here. The text below was transcribed from this recording.
RF: I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I welcome them. If you’d like to ask me a question or make a comment, you can press the “0” key on your telephone at any time.
Before we begin, allow me to make a few introductory remarks while people get on the line. I conduct these live telephone town halls because it enables me to get thousands of people together at one time. And it gives everyone on the line… that is, gives everyone on the line, the opportunity to pass along a question or concern to me. I do them regularly and will continue to hold them. You can sign up from my website… sign up at my website, at frelinghuysen.house.gov. It’s available to everyone in the Congressional District.
In addition to my being <inaudible> every week, telephone town halls serve as a valuable tool for me to hear from over 700,000 people in the 54 towns of New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. I’m here to listen to you. As I crisscross our Congressional District these days, I found people very engaged on almost every issue. From health care, to high taxes, to improving job opportunities, immigration, border security, national defense, ISIS, the needs of our veterans and their families, every issue. I look forward to hearing your comments on any issues you might want to discuss this evening. Again, please don’t hesitate to hit the “0” at any time to ask me a question or make a comment. And also please visit my website at frelinghuysen.house.gov. There you can sign up for me weekly e-newsletter and send <inaudible> emails, I’m listening.
Let’s take the first call from John in Morristown, thanks for getting on the line. John in Morristown.
We welcome all kinds of opportunities to meet with our Congressman, and any forum is an improvement on his silence so far. But transparent and accountable representation isn't conducted over the telephone and via form letters. It requires regular two-way dialogue between representatives and their constituents.
The telephone town halls Rep. Frelinghuysen has held are not promoted in advance or open to all constituents. Constituents are pre-selected from some list, called at random, without prior notice, and they are not accessible to people with hearing loss.
A tele-town hall without advance notice and open participation is merely a telephone press conference, not a true dialogue with constituents. In-person Town Halls are a staple of American democracy for which there is no substitute. The Congressman used to hold them up until 2013 - why did he stop?