As we’ve seen in the months since the election, resistance can work. From the healthcare fight to securing 40 original co-sponsors on the Senate Arctic Refuge Wilderness bill, our power grows when we join our voices together in solidarity and speak out for justice. When Congress heads home for recess, constituents like you can engage them in person on issues like protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You can follow these links to determine whether you members of Congress have co-sponsored the current Arctic Refuge Wilderness bill: House and Senate.
Use this toolkit for help influencing officials when they are back home, especially during local town hall meetings.
Why town halls? According to the Town Hall Project: “There is no better way to influence your representatives than in-person conversations. Town halls are a longstanding American tradition–where our elected representatives must listen and respond to the concerns of their constituents. Remember: you are their boss.”
So now that you know why town halls are so important, here’s how how to prep for a town hall (or other) meeting:
- Check out this great map from the Town Hall Project to find an event happening in your district. If there isn’t an event listed there, you can also determine if they’re hosting a meeting in your community by calling their office.
- Come early. Sometimes you’ll have a chance to meet your member in person before the event gets started.
- Plan one question in advance. We suggest: “Some in Congress are trying to force through new oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where polar bears, caribou and migratory birds from our state raise their young! Americans love our wild outdoor resources and the majority think we shouldn’t carve up special places like this for more dirty oil – especially when climate change is already a problem for so many. How will you stand against Big Oil interests to protect special places like this?” Note – this is not a “yes/no” question so that the representative must think through their answer. (And, if you can connect the Refuge with your community locally, you should. Find some other easy Arctic Refuge talking points here.)
- Raise your hand early so you can get your question in before the audience gets warmed up.
- Bring a sign! Even if you don’t get a chance to ask a question, you can hold up your sign to catch their eye – or any local press. Here’s a link to an Arctic Refuge sign.
- Capture the event live! Here’s a quick guide to using Facebook Live — a great tool for capturing your engagement at a town hall event.
- Stay after the meeting to see if you can meet with your member one-on-one.
- Share contact information with anyone asking questions similar to yours – it’s good to have allies for later efforts.
Can’t find a town hall scheduled for your member of Congress? What you can do:
• Call their district offices and let them know you expect them to hold public events with their constituents. Invite your friends and others in your community to place similar calls.
• Ask to schedule a time to come in to talk to your member. You can have a private meeting to tell them why you want them to protect the Arctic Refuge.
• Write a Letter to the Editor. Mention your member of Congress and the new Wilderness bill for the Arctic Refuge, and urge them to co-sponsor if they haven’t already. Check out this LTE guide. You can find the current co-sponsors for the House and Senate bills at these links.
• Follow your members of Congress on Facebook. Tweet at them and send them messages about the issues you care about. Here’s a great “how to get started with Twitter” guide. And for general social media tips, check out this infographic from SEIU. We even have some sample social media you can use!
• If you’d like to take bolder action, you can inform your local press, and if your member of Congress is still not hosting an event, you can hold an “Empty Chair” town hall. For great event hosting tips, see this document from the Indivisible guide.
The oil and gas industry and its allies in Washington, DC, are already gearing up for a big fight to auction off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its Coastal Plain to drilling. The newly elected Trump administration and Alaska’s congressional delegation came out of the election swinging, aiming to open the Arctic Refuge to development.
Trump’s transition team has stated: “Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said to The Associated Press: “If you ask me, it’s always been a good time to open it.” Both the House and the Senate introduced bills to drill in the Arctic Refuge in the first week of the 115th Congress.