A letter to the editor of your local newspaper can be an invaluable tool for advocacy. Letters are short, easy to write, and have an outsized impact for the effort – in short the juice is worth the squeeze. The information below will help you understand the full impact a well-written and well-timed letter can have and provide some sample text and pointers on how to effectively write a quality letter, as well as tips on getting it published.
Why should you bother?
At first glance it may seem like writing a letter to the editor may just be something else to eat up valuable time while not producing any real impact. Some may question the value of having what seems like only a handful of local citizens read the letters. It is important to note that decision makers, and their staffs, will read them and they mean a lot to people who depend on votes to keep their jobs. Every U.S. Senate and U.S. House office as well as state legislator offices collect and read news clips from their State or district every day. As a result letters can be an effective way of reaching any legislator directly – they will want to know what is going on with the people who vote for them.
Tips to ensure legislators pay attention:
Tips to get published:
Tips on writing effective letters:
Below is a sample letter that was written several years ago when California Governor Jerry Brown was considering opting out of the Recreational Trails Program (he didn’t):
Continue funding the RTP
Gov. Jerry Brown is facing an important decision: Whether or not to continue funding the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
The RTP funds the development and maintenance of recreational trails and facilities for motorized and non-motorized uses, including hiking, bicycling, equestrian use, dirt bike riding, ATV riding and other recreational uses. The program derives its funding from gas taxes collected at the pump when OHV enthusiasts fill up their machines and embodies the user-pay, user-benefit philosophy. The fuel taxes collected are leveraged with millions of dollars of outside funding multiplying the impact that RTP has on recreational opportunities.
As an avid off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiast, I know it is vital to my sport, and all non-motorized recreation, that Gov. Brown NOT opt out of the RTP in California.
Federal transportation reauthorization legislation signed into law by the President last year continued the RTP essentially unchanged, except that the governor of each state has the authority to opt out of funding the program. While California’s recreational community is grateful that Congress decided to retain funding for the RTP, it is imperative that Governor Brown recognize the positive economic and social benefits of retaining funding for this important program and not opt out of the RTP.
Only Governor Brown can protect funding for the RTP that is critical to ensuring that millions of Californians continue to have access to recreational trails. Let’s hope he makes the right choice.
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