An Executive Director's point of view
April 20, 2013: When conflict is unavoidable
Achieving consensus is not the goal of advocacy. Winning is the goal - persuading decision-makers to choose your organization's position over others.
Getting along with competitors - and allowing everybody to feel good about the process - may not even be a consideration.
So, be sure that the employees, contractors, and volunteers who conduct your advocacy efforts are comfortable with that attitude. They need to be concerned with winning, not making friends.
Making friends may be a part of the strategy, but winning is the primary goal.
March 01, 2013: Lincoln County
"Yes," they frequently proclaim.
Then they're asked if they'll campaign in Lincoln County.
"Yes," they once again affirm.
There are 102 counties in Illinois, but none of them are named Lincoln.
February 18, 2013: Not being a hog
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's staff was dumbfounded. The Mayor ALWAYS grabs the credit (in a tactful way, of course). That's what elected officials do.
Quinn's behavior was very much appreciated by those who are often elbowed out of the limelight.
December 06, 2012: Take the long view
Successful advocacy is not always about winning today. It's also about laying the groundwork for future victories by establishing relationships that may not bear fruit for some time.
Associations often find that members who understand that may be more patient (and loyal), more likely to pay attention to the process and participate in it, be even more gratified when victory is achieved, and elated when the forces that created that victory continue to grow and eventually become the norm.
November 11, 2012: Election reflections
But not all associations represent businesses. Many association execs, and even more association employees, voted for President Obama, support Obamacare, and promote progressive legislative initiatives. The business agenda is not their agenda.
For those in our profession who do support a business agenda, here are three suggestions:
1. Embrace business owners who are Democrats.
A growing segment of the business community is comprised of progressive entrepreneurs who seek to fulfill their social goals through business ventures. They want to make the world a better place without lying to people, misleading them, or hurting anybody. And they want to earn a living at it. They are affected by business issues and can advocate for those within a forum to which the business community does not always have access.
2. Narrow the gap between business goals and the public perception of business.
Most Americans do not own businesses, do not care about the welfare of businesses, and do not support the business agenda. They often view business leaders as heartless, highly-compensated profiteers, who pay low wages, deny benefits, and lay off workers to make more money.
3. Reclaim the Republican Party from the extremists who have taken it over in many states.
A business agenda that is espoused by candidates who justify rape, forcibly divide immigrant families, and cut health care and other benefits to working people and poor people, is not an agenda that will be considered by the majority of American voters.
The business community, and the associations that represent them, need to talk about issues that people care about.
July 15, 2012: Meaningless proclamations
It doesn't mean a thing.
These proclamations are merely ways for elected officials to suck up to voters and to the groups that represent them. When a legislative body designates a day or week or month to honor your organization, or members of your industry or profession, it means NOTHING.
They do this routinely for just about anybody who asks. The same day or week or month may also be designated to honor other organizations, industries, professions, or causes - not just yours.
So, if you value the publicity of such a designation, proclaim it yourself.
Save your political capital to pass legislation that benefits your members or your cause. Don't waste valuable resources on ceremonial drivel.
January 21, 2012: Self-serving politicians
Those politicos aren't limited to Congress, but voters don't always bother to distinguish between federal, state, and local officeholders. The lucky leaders are all lumped together as "them." And, right now, voters really don't like "them."
The public has grown weary of elected officials posturing, pitching to special interests, and engaging in acts of self-serving advocacy. Many want to vote all of "them" out of office.
Now comes redistricting - at every level of government - and it is always a partisan game. But the current cycle of creative cartography has offered the public yet another reminder of how self-serving politicians really can be.
And the Chicago City Council has provided a lurid example by approving a horribly gerrymandered ward map for its fifty aldermen.
The centerpiece of the concoction is the new 2nd ward, which a local journalist described as, "not so much a ward as a collection of stray blocks that other aldermen didn't want, connected with strings."
Its boundaries are more convoluted than a jigsaw puzzle piece, meandering for several miles and gobbling up small portions of numerous neighborhoods. In some places, the ward is only a half-block wide.
The new map carefully protects forty-one incumbents whose votes were needed to avoid a public referendum on the map, and satisfies the political demands of Black and Hispanic aldermen, with both groups having initially offered competing maps. Proponents claim it meets U.S. Justice Department guidelines and will withstand a lawsuit.
The aldermen, like many Congressmen, state legislators, and other local officials, took care of themselves.
Well, voters are getting tired of that, and associations that work closely with the self-serving bunch had better be careful not to get caught in the path of a grassroots backlash.
P.S. Just as bad (or maybe worse) is the new Illinois state legislative map. Maybe all these partisan artists should join my proposed Association of Gerrymanderers.
January 18, 2012: Free speech but no privacy
1) Internet businesses like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube will be adversely affected by anti-piracy laws and are using their communications expertise and access to millions of Americans to try to prevent passage of the bill.
2) The travel and hospitality industries, which have a smaller, but still considerable, public platform, would have been negatively impacted by heightened awareness of provisions of the Patriot Act, so chose to downplay it to preserve hotel and airline business.
3) The Patriot Act was passed in response to an attack on the U.S. by foreigners. Many people were willing (at that time) to surrender their democratic rights because they felt threatened with violence. No such feeling exists with regard to anti-piracy laws.
4) Many Americans want access to pirated materials.
5) Lots of Americans are willing to submit to invasive searches at airports, but don't want their Facebook pages censored.
December 23, 2011: Association of Gerrymanderers
It would consist of the state legislators and Governors of most of the fifty states. It would be bi-partisan, since Democrats and Republicans both gleefully engage in the process.
It could also include municipal officials who artfully divide neighborhoods to benefit their political allies and to minimize the impact of grassroots opposition.
Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, achieved his place in reapportionment history when, as Massachusetts Governor, he orchestrated a cleverly drawn state legislative map to favor his own political party, shortly before winning election as U.S. Vice-President in 1812.
With the advent of computer technology, though, Gerry's skills have become vastly overshadowed by gerrymanderers who can now redraw congressional, state legislative, ward, and county board district boundaries with amazing precision.
They can easily ignore natural communities, and create bizarrely shaped bailiwicks that wind through a host of areas that often have nothing in common, but are likely to elect a candidate from the ruling party.
An Association of Gerrymanderers could hold an annual conference, with speakers explaining how to maximize political benefits at the expense of voters.
They could advise mapmakers how to dodge legal challenges, how to win a majority even when outnumbered, and how to split the goodies when no one party holds a monopoly on the process.
Law firms, technology companies, and statisticians could buy exhibit booths to sell their wares to creative cartographers.
Members could loiter in the meeting lounge and swap tales about districts they dismembered, service offices and homes they excluded from newly drawn districts, and political careers they sabotaged.
Ohio Republicans and Illinois Democrats could laugh about how they crushed their opponents. Texas Republicans could one-up them by telling how they did it twice - even redistricting when they didn't have to - just to stick it to the Democrats.
An Association of Gerrymanderers could have a very long and healthy life.
January 31, 2011: Nice guys finish...?
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico have been criticized for using their political connections to get rich. Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun has been chided for making late property tax payments and for not earning a lot of money from her business.
Well, associations are going to have to learn how to deal with one of these folks pretty soon. It may be a good idea to start thinking of some effective strategies right now.