By: Karen Pelletier
Earlier this week a committee I served on won an 8 month long battle with City Hall. City Staff wanted to install “worm medians” on our primary arterial street. These worm medians would have prevented us from taking a left and most importantly, forced us to take U-turns into 60-70 mph traffic. It was nuts!
For all of you who are trying to fight City Hall, here are some suggestions based on our experience.
1. Form a Committee
Form a committee so that your City knows who represents the people on this issue and who they can negotiate with. In our case we staffed that committee with a lawyer, engineer, HOA representatives and marketers. Try to get whatever expertise you need to increase your credibility.
2. Do Your Research
Get your hands on the original source documents. In our case that was tract maps approved by the City that spelled out what improvements were to be made by the developer and who was to pay for them. We also needed the traffic studies and to understand the money side of the equation. Quoting the original source documents will give you the knowledge and credibility you need to work the issue.
3. Analyze the Data
This is a big one. Often City Government is given a report which makes a recommendation, which the City then acts upon. Get those reports. Use your marketing analytical skills to rip it apart and make sure it makes sense. Poke holes in their argument based on flaws in their analysis. In our case a traffic engineer was quoting a 20% improvement in safety associated with worm medians, but when you actually looked at the numbers, even if you used his accident rate assumptions, it would have taken 5.8 years to save 1 accident! All of a sudden the rationale for the engineer’s recommendation was called into question.
4. Develop an Alternative Recommendation and Cost It Out
Give the City an alternative to the plan you are fighting. Give them solid reasons why your proposal makes more sense than the one they were considering. Cost out your plan. If you have a question about costs, ask the City Staff about the cost assumptions they would use for your proposal. If possible, show how to pay for it.
5. Build Support for Your Recommendation with Voters
Here’s where you as marketers should shine.
- Communicate with voters. Keep them updated on the status and what you are trying to do. Use email marketing, online petitions, and social media to spread the word and keep people informed.
- Provide them with a clear recommendation. Use your communication skills to write memos that people understand and get their heads nodding.
- Ask them to sign a petition backing your recommendation. The more voter signatures you have, the more likely it is that your City Council will take you seriously.
6. Do “Marketing Research”
Use your in-depth interviewing skills to understand the objectives and positions of the parties involved. Once you understand everyone’s objectives it’s a lot easier to find a solution that addresses everyone’s needs.
7. Lobby Your Councilmen
Meet with them individually. Present your analysis of the situation, recommendations and rationale. Find out if/where they disagree with you and address those issues head-on. Don’t forget the CTA (call to action). Ask them for their support!
8. Pack the House
On the night of the public hearing of your issue, make sure that you pack the Council Chamber with your supporters. A large turnout is sure to get their attention!
Have you successfully fought your City? What’s worked for you?