Cartoon: Nice People Like Us

[Dowload as PDF – 1.7MB | Request Print Version]

Real Clout was written to serve as a how-to manual for community activists who, for one reason or another, need to figure out how their state or county government really works.

Your community has a problem or a lack of resources that simply cannot be fixed at the local level — a new kind of environmental hazard, an epidemic in substance abuse among young people, a lack of primary health services for a growing number of uninsured working families. Every charitable stone has been turned over. Every local institution has been stretched to the limit.

The real solution to your community problem requires the state or county to change the way it is currently funding or managing a specific program, or requires them to create and fund a new program. Individual state, county and local officials may have to be convinced to interpret existing laws and regulations differently. New laws may have to be passed, and new rules and regulations will have to be made.

Who are these people making life and death funding decisions that affect your members, your community? How can you influence their decisions?

As community activists, you probably know more about your state, county and local government than most ordinary citizens. Those of you who have successfully mounted public awareness campaigns to get more resources from various private and public funding sources in your community are especially well informed. Still, the notion of driving even farther, to go to another, bigger, public building and talking to a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats fills you with anxiety and apprehension, if not fear and loathing.

There are so many questions:

  • What do you have to do to convince state or county public officials to interpret existing law and regulations differently?
  • What do you have to do to convince a state or county public official to work with you to design, create and fund a new program?
  • What is the official timetable and process of changing a law or regulation?
  • What is the budget process?
  • Can non-profit organizations really do this stuff?
  • Where do we go to get some honest answers?
  • Do we have to hire a high-priced lobbyist to get things done?
  • Where do we start?