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Take your legislator to the beach

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011

As the days are getting longer and warmer, we all think wistfully about going to the beach — it is part of spring fever. Along with fond memories of beach seasons, we all worry about the long-term health of our beach — and whether or not our beaches will be maintained due to the turmoil in Washington.

Most Members of Congress know that the beaches (and the economy built around them) are some of the most important parts of their district, but with all the distractions members face these days they may have forgotten the value of beaches in their district. Certainly, few of them know what has gone into making and maintaining their local beaches. With the start of the summer beach season, now is the time to remind your Senators and Representative why it is important to preserve their beaches and what they can do to help.

The American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is calling upon all coastal communities to be a part of “Take Your Legislator to the Beach Week” by organizing meetings with your members of Congress during Constituent Service Week May 16-20. Members of Congress are supposed to be back in their districts during this time, and most members pack their schedules with district meetings and media events.

Showing your Senators and Representative around your beach will give them an excellent opportunity to learn more about the critical needs our beaches face, as well as generate local media exposure for them and bring attention to your issues as well. Walking the beach helps remind them of why they want to protect this invaluable national asset.

You will be more successful if you are part of a larger group that includes local elected officials, community leaders and members of the media. If the mayor or a city council member is part of your group, you’re more likely to get your Congressperson engaged. Consider other people you may know in your community — for example, the local chamber of commerce is often supportive of protecting the beach since it recognizes the economic activity it generates.

Once you put your team together, schedule a date. We recommend calling the member’s local office and asking how to go about scheduling an event (each office has a different procedure). You can find information on House members at www.house.gov and Senate members at www.senate.gov. Usually, Members prefer that you submit an online or email invitation first and only make a follow-up call after the scheduler has had ample time to process your request.

You don’t have to be an expert. ASBPA has put together a useful list of talking points and a primer on how to set up these meetings and how to be an effective advocate. Please use this link — www.ASBPA.org — to get this information and begin the process of setting up these meetings. Additionally, it is important to contact your members of Congress as soon as possible because their schedules are very busy.

Once you have the date scheduled, prepare your talking points. Keep them really simple – two or three items. Then you should contact your local media to let them know to plan to participate. Be sure to bring your own camera as members will often include local constituent photos on their websites.

Please start now and be a part of ASBPA’s “Take Your Legislator to the Beach Week.” Share your experience with us on Facebook or by sending an e-mail to exdir@asbpa.org.

If your member of Congress is booked that week, there are two other Constituent Work Weeks scheduled before Labor Day: June 27-July 1 and July 18-22. If those times won’t work, it’s still invaluable to make the effort to meet with your local Congressional office staff to help build a relationship with them… since a lot of the things that get done in Congress are accomplished by staff members.

The bottom line: Don’t let the summer go by without taking your legislator to the beach!