Local governments across the country are looking to create new or manipulate current laws to oversee the growing food truck boom the US is involved in. We encourage all of the friends and supporters of the mobile food industry to engage in their local political process and directly communicate with their representatives in the cities and states they live in. This article was developed to provide basic information regarding contacting legislators who are developing laws and regulations that impacts the mobile food industry.
We at Mobile Cuisine suggest that individuals interested in supporting the food trucks in your area contact your local members of the city council or mayor’s office when important legislative issues arise. For instance, if the City Council has introduced legislation that would limit or prevent food trucks from operating in your downtown area, you should consider contacting the members of the council to ensure lawmakers hear a strong message of support for food truck vendors. Your voice really makes a difference!
Tips on Meeting a Member of Government or a Member of the Staff
- A personal visit with a local city council member or even your mayor is an effective way to emphasize your interest in an issue or bill. Some tips for meeting a Legislator to urge support or opposition to legislation:
- When making an appointment, state the subject to be discussed and identify persons who will attend, noting whether they are constituents.
- Select a spokesperson if others are going with you and agree on your presentation in advance of your meeting.
- Know the facts, both legislatively and related to your position. If discussing a bill, know the number and title.
- Present the facts in an orderly, concise, positive manner. Stay on the issue. Don’t try to talk about too many different topics or your position may become confused.
- Relate the positive impact of legislation you support and the problems it corrects. If you are affected personally, tell them your story and how an issue will impact you, your child, or your family.
- Relate the negative impact of legislation you oppose and the problems it would create.
- Leave fact sheets if possible.
- Encourage questions. Be prepared to discuss.
- Ask for favorable consideration, thank the legislator for his/her time and courtesy, and leave promptly.
- Be sure to get the name of the staff member covering your issue.
- Follow up with a note of thanks.
- You may end up meeting with a staff member instead of the Legislator if he/she is called away for other business. The staffer will convey your message to the Legislator.
Tips on Writing to a State Legislator
- Try to stick to one typewritten page, two pages at most. Don’t write on the back of a page. If writing longhand, take care to write legibly.
- Use your own words and your own stationery. A personal letter is better than a form letter.
- In a short first paragraph, state your purpose. Stick to one subject or issue. Support your position with the rest of the letter.
- If an ordinance or regulation, cite it by both name and number. Try not to use acronyms.
- Be factual and support your position with information about how legislation is likely to affect you and others. Avoid emotional, philosophical arguments.
- If you believe that legislation is wrong and should be opposed, say so. Indicate the likely adverse effects and suggest a better approach.
- Ask the legislator’s views, but do not demand support. Remember that these individuals respond to a variety of views, and even if your position is not supported on one issue or bill now, it may be the next time.
- Be sure to include your address and sign your name legibly. You should also include your telephone number. If you have any family, business, or political connection in regard to food trucks, explain it. It may serve as identification when your point of view is considered.
- Write also about legislation of which you approve. Legislators hear mostly from constituents who are against something; this gives them a one-sided picture of their constituency. A note of appreciation will make your legislator remember you favorably next time you write.
- Write early before an ordinance or regulation has been introduced if you have some ideas that you would like to see included in legislation. If you are “lobbying” for or against a bill and your council member is a member of the Committee to which it has been referred, write when the Committee begins hearings. If your representative is not a member of the Committee handling the ordinance, write just before it is scheduled to come to the floor for debate and vote.
- Write the Chairperson or members of a Committee holding hearings on legislation in which you are interested. However, remember that you have more influence with legislators from your own district or ward than any others.
Tips on Telephone Calls
- Telephone calls are extremely effective when you need to make your views known quickly and time isn’t available to write a letter.
- When you call a legislator’s office you will be talking to a member of the staff who will most likely ask your name and address for future follow-up. In addition to letting him/her know how you feel, you can also ask questions to learn the legislator’s position on an issue as well as how he/she plans to vote on a particular ordinance.