Saturday, September 24, 2011

How to Contact Your Representatives

a2_LOTITO_Pequannock_Flood_(Irene)_2011 036Image by Christopher Lotito via Flickr
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, a lot of individuals have asked me what we can do at this time to alleviate flooding.  Personally, I've spent hours on the phone this week with the DEP trying to get through and get a straight answer as to why they cannot manage the dams to reduce flooding.  That's my approach, it makes noise and it builds contacts and I like it.  You might like it too.  There are however a number of approaches you might pursue.

Letter Writing Campaigns

Another good option is to write to your representatives.  A gentleman at the Pequannock flood information meeting September 22nd asked me how one finds their representatives and contacts them.  There are many websites available, but the best I've seen for getting contact information is http://www.votesmart.org/ -- If you get contact information for your representatives, you can help others around you save time by giving that information to them.

Pequannock Readers: An actual form letter that you can print and send to your representatives is available at this website: http://www.peqtwp.org/Cit-e-Access/webpage.cfm?TID=60&TPID=11869

That's not my favorite site for contacting government though, http://www.congress.org/ holds that distinction.  Congress.org allows you to create a log in, create a profile (viewable by politicians), and send letters that others have written to your representatives or create your own letter for you and others to send.  It's nearly a one-stop solution for grassroots at this time.  -- In addition, Congress.org formats your email in such a way that your representatives will accept it because it shows up in their filtering system as coming from one of their constituents.  Your emails are also guaranteed to be delivered* and are formatted so that your representatives can quickly see what issue you are writing about and add your name to the tally of constituents writing about that issue.

Personal Appeals

If you want to make a personal appeal to your representatives you need to:

  1. Call your representative's office and get the name and email of a staffer.
  2. Contact them with a very specific request (such as receiving records of historic operations of the Pompton Lake floodgates for example, or even requesting that those floodgates be opened under certain criteria). 
  3. Re-contact that person politely, once or twice a week via phone or email, to inform them of the progress you're making on the issue on your end and request further assistance.
  4. When you receive assistance, be sure to thank that person and even contact their office to note what a great job they've done (because they have and everyone likes to be thanked for their work).
  5. Continue to contact that staffer with new issues in the future.

You can of course use this technique with the NJ DEP or any other organization as desired.

Document Everything

Document everything you do for future use, be it to show to higher authorities, courts, or simply to provide to future volunteers following your path.

The Best Solution

The best solution will come from all of these methods in combination as well as any you come up with yourself.  Feel free to leave a comment to let us know what works for you!

*Pequannock Readers: A note, due to redistricting, Pequannock will be a part of the 40th district following the close of the year, so make sure you target those representatives.  You can still contact your current representatives through Congress.org, just be sure to also find a method to contact the new ones, Scott Rumana and David Russo, as well.



Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock EnvironmentalHistoric District, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

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