Effectively Reaching Out to City Council

I energetically welcome folks in the community reaching out to me and to the rest of City Council. I think being accessible to the folks we represent is a critical part of our job. That said, there are more and less effective ways to communicate with your City Council representatives, and I thought I would offer some suggestions on what seem to me to be the most effective ways of communicating with us.

First, if you are going to email me a letter, I find it much easier to read it if it’s inserted in your email rather than if you attach it as a separate document. I read every email I get, and it takes me twice or three times as long if I have to open an attachment. The easier it is for me to read through my emails, the more likely each email will get the attention it deserves. Making it hard to get through my inbox (especially since there are lots of other emails from lots of other folks with lots of other issues) adds to the annoyance factor without helping make your case.

Second, send your email to either the general City Council address or to each of our individual addresses but don’t send them to both, since the general one goes to everyone already and then we each end up getting duplicates. Flooding our inboxes with bunches of duplicates adds to the annoyance factor and doesn’t help persuade anyone to vote the way you want folks to vote.

Third, the most effective and persuasive letters are individual letters clearly written by the person sending it. The least effective are form letters. If you’ve got a group of folks that all feel the same way, instead of having each person send a form letter I think you’ll pack just as much punch by sending a single letter signed by everyone. The level of support is just as clear and I spend ten minutes reading one letter with tons of signatures instead of an hour or two or more dealing with tons of virtually identical emails.

I can’t speak for anyone else on City Council, but from my perspective being effective isn’t about how much time it takes me to deal with a flooded inbox but rather by how efficiently you convey the depth of support for whatever view you all hold. I think the same is true for public comment at City Council meetings, by the way. Twenty people all making the same point over and over again during a public comment period or during a public hearing is less effective than it could be. I believe strongly that everyone deserves a chance to be heard, and I don’t mind our Council meetings running late because lots of folks want a chance to speak up, but it’s a lot more effective for each of the twenty folks to say something that hasn’t been said before, or just to say they agree with the previous speaker.

I’ll reiterate that I’m only speaking for myself, and it’d be interesting to hear what others on Council think about this.

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