In the last week and a half, Peter Zimmerman has gone to Olympia three times to advocate and lobby on behalf of people who are homeless or struggling to get by on low incomes.
He has handed petitions to the Governor and legislative leaders calling on a budget that enhances revenues to protect vital programs, helped members of the Spokane Tribe of Indians to meet with their legislators, and testified in support of a bill that would create a common application fee for renters, easing a financial burden on what is a serious barrier to housing for low income folks.
Advocacy in Olympia can seem intimidating to folks who have not done it. While Peter has only been speaking up publically on these issues for a year and a half or so, he has gained great insight and experience that can help us all do a better job jumping into the public policy pool.
In the coming weeks and months Peter will share firsthand on this blog some of his experiences and reactions to the legislative session. But for now, please consider some excerpts from a recent conversation, which I’ll call:
Peter’s Top 10 Tips for Citizen Lobbyists
- I like advocating for others more than just telling my own story.
- We all have value as human beings. Get involved. Ask questions. Don’t assume that because of the way things happen today, they can’t be changed…Change takes action! If you don’t like what is going on, get off your ass and do something about it.
- For God sakes, VOTE. When I run across somebody who says ,‘I don’t know where,’ well, I’ve got the materials and the address for them to register.
- You think justice turns slow? The wheels of politics turn slower. Don’t give up after the first rejection of what you think is important. You are going to run into a lot of interference.
- People don’t want to change, especially the people who have the power; they are not willing to give it up freely or easily. It is ok to confront them about that. (But) don’t threaten people…they won’t listen to you. Keep them engaged, even people who disagree with you. Keep the dialogue open. Once they turn you off, you are preaching to a blank wall.
- One thing I noticed right off the bat (with our opponents) was that there was no emotional investment on their part for their position. They just went out and did their technical requirements, blah blah blah blah blah. …Their side had lawyers, we had humans.
- It is (important) that we get as many voices as possible to start delivering the same message. That is one thing I learned about getting on the Solid Ground Advisory Council. You may not get your specific agenda addressed; there is compromise and consensus to come up with a unified position or response. The more voices you have speaking in unison, the more powerful it is.
- My legislative experience is kind of like the first time I rode a bike. I did it once, and now I know what to do — keep my feet on the pedals, keep moving.
- The more momentum you have, the easier it is to stay on the bike.
- Keep your hands on the handlebars. Watch where you are going.