Last Tuesday night I held my first of many Town Hall meetings to come. These meetings are set up as a hands-on community forum for understanding the issues facing the 2009 State Legislature. In a continuing effort to keep citizens of Senate District One informed first about their government, I extended invitations to all of the elected official in the district to give a more complete analysis of the issues. House Minority Leader David Litvack (House District 26), Representative Jennifer Seelig (House District 23), Chief of Staff for Mayor Becker, Ben McAdams, and I all came together to talk on all topics ranging from the budget, health care reform, education and the implementation of SB 81. I want to thank these leaders for attending and taking time from their very busy schedules. The Salt Lake City Councilmen Christensen and Turner were excused due to a city council meeting at the same time.
We had a great turnout despite the weather, and the questions were tough. The people have a hunger for information, and we are here to give it to them.
Judi Hilman, Executive Director of Utah Health Policy Project, was also on hand to teach our constituents more effective ways to talk to their legislators, and she discussed issues related to Health Care System Reform. Several of the key points she brought up were dead on! I want to share a few with you.
When you are contacting your legislators, keep it short and sweet if you are writing a letter, and remember a lot of times, facts and figures go in one ear and out the other. Use a short story to make your point stick. If you are going to address the leadership, you technically have the right to say you are a constituent of theirs (your legislator voted for them, and you voted for your legislator). This is important because legislators always take issues from their constituents more attentively than others.
The final point that I would like to share with you is a statement made by Ben McAdams last night. He said, “Five phone calls is a revolution.” I can’t tell you how true that is! If, as legislators, we receive multiple phone calls, letters, or messages on a particular issue, it is serious. So if there is an important issue to the community, make sure to have your neighbors call or write a letter. This will get way more attention than with only a single individual.
The Utah Health Policy Project has put together a great resource for advocacy. It is called the “UHPP Advocacy Tool Kit” and can be found on their website. There is a great spread sheet there with all of the legislators, what committees they are on, and a lot of tips on how to have an effective meeting with your legislators. This is an amazing wealth of resources that I encourage all of you to try out. This is your government and your Capitol. Never be afraid to contact any of your legislators. We are here for you!
I know that a lot of people could not make it to this Town Hall meeting. I hope that by having more in the future all around my district, I will have the chance to hear the concerns of all of my constituents. If you would like to be added directly to our e-mail
list, please send an e-mail to my staff at Andrew.Gilbert13@gmail.com. I look forward to continuing to serve my district and all of the State of Utah.
From left: Rep. David Litvack, Senator Luz Robles, Ben McAdams
and Rep. Jen Seelig