Legislators want to hear from … you

Don’t ignore the power individual citizens
have to effectuate positive change
Don’t ignore the power individual citizenshave to effectuate positive change

PROVIDENCE – How often do we tell our friends and co-workers that the political system is broken and beyond repair? Many of us believe that we cannot influence change in the system.

While we may think a bill should or should not become law, we feel powerless. “The lobbyists always get what they want.” While that may be true for many bills in Washington, D.C., and at the General Assembly, we can, and should, be heard.

We may not be lobbyists with “deep pockets” and unlimited resources. However, we can be advocates for a cause important to us. We have one advantage over the well-financed lobbyists. While it may seem trite, it is true. Our network is us, collectively, the voters and the constituents.

The network of voters is a very important bloc that cannot go unheard on specific issues unless those voters choose to remain silent. Our elected officials care what we think, not just at the polls, but in our outreach to them. They want to know what we think.

The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s Community Relations Council (CRC) frequently calls on our elected officials to influence change. The CRC also contacts you, members of our Jewish community, to ask for advocacy support, such as a phone call or email to our elected officials.

Recently, the CRC asked community members to advocate for the Iran Divestment legislation then pending at the General Assembly. An ‘Action Alert’ email was sent to many community members asking them to call their Rhode Island state legislators for the purpose of supporting the Iran divestment that was coming to a vote. Many individuals did make those much-needed calls to seek support for this important legislation. The result was overwhelming support for the bill. (The year before,  similar legislation passed in the senate, but was not voted on in the house).

Another recent example was the “Choose Life” license plate issue. Our calls to Governor Lincoln Chafee helped ensure his veto of this controversial bill that had been passed by the General Assembly.

Our calls matter. It is not true that our voices are heard only during election season. Our voices are heard loudest when our elected officials are in session and voting on issues; they want to know our positions. A phone call is vital if we wish to influence the outcome; an email also provides results but not nearly as well as a phone call.

As Rhode Island citizens, we have an obligation to try to influence our elected officials. The Iran divestment bill that recently passed and the veto of the Choose Life license plate are only two examples of how we can make a difference. Another way to become a strong advocate is to support and be involved with the Community Relations Council of the Alliance.

Let your voice be heard. It all starts with you.

Marty Cooper (mcooper@shalomri.org or 421-4111) is director of the Community Relations Council.