I’m dropping out of the twitter echo chamber on the Michelle Wu discussion. It’s hard to express yourself in 140 characters without resorting to insults and enough of that. I plead guilty to helping to crowd out other important policy discussions in our fair city.
The first confession – as a member of Ward 15 Democratic Commitee, I voted to endorse Michelle Wu, but I didn’t vote for her, deciding instead to throw my support to four other candidates I have worked with personally and professionally and trust to make informed decisions on the social, racial and economic justice issues I care about. You might be surprised.
The second confession is that as a long time lobbyists for the poor, the elderly and the disabled communities I have always counseled my clients that they must learn how to work with elected and appointed policy makers they don’t like personally, or who don’t share their personal values, or who have voted the wrong way on a number of issues they care very much about, or who are rude and unwilling to meet with advocates or special interest groups they don’t agree with. That means Governors and Secretaries and persons in the bowels of the bureaucracy. That means Legislative Leadership and newly elected legislators and their staff. Come to think of it, especially their staff. No buts….
Why? Because the key to persuading every elected or appointed policy maker is creating a “Hero Opportunity” for them to champion issues that will make a positive difference in the lives of a critical mass of their constituents….and get credit for it.
Why? Elected and appointed officials want to get credit for winning positive change that makes a positive difference in the lives of their constituents so their constituents will know they are effective at winning in the policy arena and they will vote for them or they will get reappointed and their boss will get reelected.
Why do we want anybody we don’t like to get credit for championing a change that s/he should be doing anyway cause it’s right thing to do and why do we want to help her/him get re elected? Because we need to build a majority of support in the entire political arena to win the policy change we want. Our representative democracy demands power sharing among the three branches of governments at all levels and within each branch.
Here are the four questions to answer when designing a winning plan and make it happen.
What do you want? (What policy or program to change and how to change it.)
Why do you want it? (Research documenting how your solution will produce positive change)
Who has the power to give it to you? (Identify elected and appointed decision makers in the administrative, judicial and legislative branches of Government who have jurisdiction over your proposed solution. Power is shared via comprises and coalitions at every level of government and inside every branch as well, and both elected and appointed officials fight for it within each branch. The majority usually wins in the legislative branch, most times in the administrative branch. In the judicial branch the constitution always wins.)
How do you get access to and influence those decision makers to give you what you want? (There are lots of choices —from traditional contract lobbying to grassroots mobilization to direct action. Respectful disagreements actually build mutual trust. Insults from and to single issue purists build mutual disdain.)
In a comment on another post, I reported I was advising my clients,
Organize your Boston members to sit right down with Councilor Elect Wu and share with her your specific issues and recommended solutions and ask her to be your champion with her colleagues to be.
It’s perfectly ok to tell her you are disappointed in her support of Counselor Linehan for President but you hope she will be able to facilitate a meeting with him and some folks from his district to ask for his support on your issue. It would be wise to avoid character assassination of her or Counselor Linehan. Disappointment is tough enough.
Of course they should have the same constituent meetings and take the same requests to other Councilors: the sooner better than later.
I was not surprised that many of my clients, who are actually very accomplished advocates, all of whom had met and been charmed by Michelle Wu, were very disappointed in Michelle’s decision to support Councilor Linehan for City Council President. These folks had never met or had a positive encounter with Linehan and only knew what had heard or read in the paper about the St Patrick Day March kerfluffle and the fact that he beat the progressive Suzanne Lee who they had met.
I was a little surprised to hear from many others who had met Wu and heard or read the same things about Linehan, but had had a positive encounter with Councilor Linehan about worker issues or elderly services or public transportation for instance. These folks thought Councilor Linehan was pretty smart to recruit Wu for his 7th vote and they hoped she “gets something out of it, and, a nanosecond later, “maybe we should make sure it’s us!” So I think they will take advantage of Michelle Wu’s promise to listen to her constituents concerns about her commitment to Linehan and talk to her about their issues before the city as well.
Now I don’t know if Michelle Wu will switch her vote or not, but I doubt it. I think meeting with her about your issue and expressing disagreements in a respectful way is a win win strategy for advocates who need to build a majoritarian constituency for their issues in the Boston City Council. And it’s good for a whole City Council.. And come to think about it, for the Mayor elect as well.
I honestly think that folks who are organizing now to make Counselor–Elect Wu’s life “so much worse” that she will be forced to switch her vote or they will never vote for her again are good people who care a lot about building a better Boston. We not-so- simply but very strongly don’t agree on tactics.