Let Congress Know About a Connected America from Week One!
January 26, 2017
The opening days of 2017 have featured a number of positive signs for increased investment in passenger rail, from President Trump’s pushing railways in his inaugural address to Democrat’s introducing a trillion dollar infrastructure proposal that would invest billions in rail and transit.
We’re asking you to call your elected official today and deliver two key points:
- I support a bipartisan transportation bill that invests in safe, efficient passenger trains and transit.
- Investing money in new equipment for Amtrak and high-speed rail will put Americans back to work, and boost U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Congress needs to hear this critical message from day one. Call now!
If you can’t call, NARP has set up an email tool here. However, we encourage you to reach out in person to convey this important message. (Read our Guide to Effective Engagement below to find out why).
Thank you for your support of A Connected America!
Jim Mathews, President & CEO
National Association of Railroad Passengers
Guide to Effective Engagement
The following guidelines, given by a senior staffer for a U.S. Senator, were compiled by a NARP Council Member. We believe it contains very useful information on how to best engage with your elected officials.
Face Time Is Ideal
By far the most effective way to be heard and get your congressperson’s attention is to have a face-to-face meeting. If they have town hall meetings in the district, go to them. Or ask for an appointment and go to their local offices. If you're in Washington, find a way to go to one of their public events (such as a constituent coffee). Check each congressperson's website regularly because all public events are listed there. When you go, ask questions—lot of them—and push for answers. Be respectful and polite, but the louder and more vocal you can be at those meetings the better.
But Phone Calls Work Best
In-person meetings with members of Congress don’t happen every day, so the most important thing to do on a regular basis is telephone their office. Members of Congress pay attention to telephone calls. Every single day in our office, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report on the three most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices—that is, the Washington office and the local offices—and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics. They're also sorted by zip code and area code.
One Call Isn’t Enough
Call Repeatedly. If there’s an important vote or committee hearing coming up, call every day. But as long as important legislation is being considered, call several times a week. Remember, someone in that office is keeping track of how many calls they’re getting and for which issues.
What to Say When You Call
Talk To the Right Person. When calling the Washington office, ask for the staff member in charge of transportation. The local offices won't always have specific ones, but they might. If you get transferred to that person, wonderful. But if they’re busy or out of the office, get their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don't leave a message unless the office doesn't pick up at all —but it's much better to talk to the staff person who first answered than leave a message for the specific individual in charge of your topic.
Give Them Your ZIP Code. They won't always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them, so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them, since they'll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.
Make It Personal. "I voted for you in the last election and I'm worried/happy/whatever… ” Or "I work in tourism, and I am appalled by cuts to Amtrak.” Or "as a single mother… ” Or "as a white, middle class woman… ”
Focus on Something Specific. Don’t run down a whole list. Stick to one or possibly two items per phone call, ideally something that will be voted on or taken up for consideration in the following few days. But call anyway, even if there’s no vote coming up. The important thing is that they get phone calls.
Be Clear About Your Concerns. “I’m extremely disappointed that the senator voted to reduce the already inadequate investment in passenger trains.” “Please thank the Congressman on my behalf for voting for Amtrak’s national network grant.”
Don’t Be Intimidated
The staff may get to know your name and you may feel they’re sick of hearing from you. It doesn’t matter. Call again anyway. The reality is that the people answering the phones—often college interns—generally turn over every six weeks anyway, so even if they're really sick of you, they'll be gone in 6 weeks.
It’s a Numbers Game
The senior staff person for a major political figure said that Republican callers generally outnumber Democrat callers 4-1, and when it's a hot button issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, immigration, etc...), it's often closer to 11-1. These calls have been incredibly effective at swaying party attitudes on these issues, and it’s a playbook worth copying from