Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Make Your Vote Count: Park and Recreation Efforts Depend on Electing the Right Person for the Job

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Make Your Vote Count: Park and Recreation Efforts Depend on Electing the Right Person for the Job

Article excerpt

One of the most basic and effective means to advance the cause of parks and recreation at the local, state and national levels is the simple act of voting. We can--and should--vote for candidates who we believe to support parks and recreation.

One-third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives is up for election or re-election on Nov. 7. In addition, there are thousands of local and statewide offices up for election. Election time is an excellent opportunity to engage candidates in support of our issues as these candidates embark on an election campaign. If we engage candidates on our issues, we can influence both incumbent and challenger positions and we can secure support from those elected on public park and recreation issues.

How can you make your vote count? There are a number of ways you can engage in the process at any number of levels. Even the most novice advocate can make a difference. Whether you work behind the scenes, or are willing to stand up at a candidates' forum and sling the high, hard fastballs at the candidates, your participation is needed. No matter your style, there is a role you can play if you are willing to commit a little time and energy.

To make our votes for parks and recreation count, we need to leverage the votes of others who feel the same about our issues. One of the best ways to place park and recreation issues in voters' minds is to have the candidates themselves be advocates by including position statements in platforms and stump speeches.

Fortunately, our best issues are ones that candidates love to include in their platform statements. What politician doesn't support more recreation opportunities for youth in their community? What candidate for elected office doesn't support reducing childhood obesity? What current officeholder looking to get re-elected doesn't commit his or her efforts to improving community health and wellness?

However, getting these issues included into candidate statements can be challenging. One good way to engage candidates is by posing questions to candidates and asking them to respond. This can be done for any level of elected office and questions can be specific-about a pending bond initiative, for example--or generic, such as a question about their level of support for open space protection.

It is appropriate to provide candidates with a briefing paper or fact sheet about the needs for parks and recreation along with your questions. Not surprisingly, astute candidates can find the very answers they need to your questions. Questions can be posed by individuals, but are often more effectively posed by groups. If you inform the candidate that you would like to include their answers in a newsletter or online forum, they have even more of a reason to agree.

Every allied group and state affiliate of NRPA should pose candidate questions to those running for U.S. Congress and post their answers as widely as possible on Web sites and in communications to members. Other allied organizations may be invited to join in asking questions to candidates. Perhaps you can join with a local mountain bike club that is advocating for more trails or acquisition of open space to get them to support park and recreation agency budgets or bond issues.

Or you might seek to join in asking questions with a community health group that is working for better coordination of government services to those at risk. Asking the same questions of all candidates running for office can provide a very good range of perspectives on the relative importance candidates place on your issues. …

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