NFCCA

Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ December 2013

Making Your Voice Heard in the County Council

By Carole Barth

We often ask residents to write to the County Council about issues which affect us in NFCCA territory.  But what is the most effective way to send in your comments?  Given how short the time is between when documents are made available to the public and when the Council votes on them, “snail mail” is not really an option.

Phone calls can be effective, particularly if you can speak directly with the Councilmember, and face-to-face meetings are great if time allows.  However, if you speak with a councilperson’s staff, your well-reasoned argument may be reduced to a simple tally (one for or one against the proposed action).

This is important, because many council staff do not consider feedback worth reporting unless they receive 200 e-mails and calls on a subject.  (Note:  If you sign an online petition or “click here to send the council an e-mail,” your e-mail won’t count as much.  Identical e-mails must reach an even higher threshold to get noticed by council staff.)

So, you’re going to send an e-mail.  Where do you send it?  If you write to the Council President (currently Nancy Navarro, but that will change in early December) or to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov, the following applies:

All correspondence addressed to the Council President in his or her official capacity — including e-mail messages — is included in the daily mail log, which is available to all Councilmembers and staff, and becomes part of the official public record.

It’s important to have your message become part of the official public record, but that doesn’t guarantee that staff (let alone Councilmembers) will actually look at it.  Indeed, more likely, you’ve just become part of a generic pro-and-con tally that will be reported to all Councilmembers and their staff people.

So, how about if you e-mail each Councilmember at the addresses listed on the Council website?  (These addresses have the format councilmember.ervin@montgomerycountymd.gov.)  This gets you closer; your e-mail will be read by that Councilperson’s staff.  However, what happens next depends upon that staff person.  They may choose to engage you in discussion over the issue, they may bring your e-mail to the Councilmember’s attention, they may just add it to their tally, or they may filter it out as not worth passing along.  If you want to send it directly to a Councilmember’s e-mail box, use the following format: valerie.ervin@montgomerycountymd.gov.  Now let’s hope the Councilmembers you’re writing to keep up with their e-mail.

Another technique that can help get your e-mail read is to CC the press.  (Who knows, you might even generate some interest from that quarter!)

Another approach is to post something on the Councilmember’s Facebook page.  This doesn’t work for long, complicated testimony, but it’s great for a short, personal message.  You may even get a real-time response when you go this route.  Even better, once you’ve posted, you can ask your friends to “like” your post, quickly showing lots of support for your position.  It’s hard for someone to ignore lots of traffic on their page.  If enough people tell their friends they like your post, you can cause quite a ripple effect.

However, to be able to do this you must first “friend” the Councilmember.  Likewise, your friends won’t be able to see your post unless they also are “friends ” with the Councilmember.  It may take a few days for your friend request to be confirmed, so it’s best to do this in advance.

Similarly, you can tweet something in response to the Councilmember’s Twitter feed.  This is even more limited in length, but the odds are pretty good that you will get a timely personal response from the Councilmember.

So, if you want to try e-mailing the Councilmembers directly, use these addresses:

Happy writing!   ■

Current Council Members

   © 2013 NFCCA  [Source: https://nfcca.org/news/nn201312i.html]