Engaging Members of Congress

Ideas for Local Activities

APA has prepared a variety of tips and resources to help you engage both federal and state elected representatives as part of the month-long celebration of good planning. Many ideas are listed below with brief summaries of the suggested activity. This list isn't intended to be comprehensive. You may have other creative ways to get your representatives involved in National Community Planning Month. If you are interested in pursuing any of these activities and would like additional information or support, you can contact APA's Government Affairs staff at govtaffairs@planning.org or 202-872-0611.

District Meetings
One of the easiest and most effective opportunities for outreach is to request a meeting with your Congressional Representative in his or her district office. Complete "how to" details on scheduling, planning, and conducting district meetings that have been developed as part of National Community Planning Month resources.

Site Visits
Elected officials love to see tangible examples of the impact of public policies and programs. Site visits allow a hands-on look at how programs affect the community. They are also useful in linking planning to specific, positive outcomes. Think about exemplary projects in your community that highlight the role of planning and consider inviting your representatives to visit one or more of them.

Legislative Breakfast or Luncheon
Events are good opportunities to reach out and involve your representatives. If you are holding a special event in your community as part of National Community Planning Month, consider inviting your Congressional representative and your state legislator to make brief remarks. Such events can be particularly effective when combined with a breakfast, luncheon, or reception program.

Issue Briefing
This idea is similar to the legislative breakfast / luncheon described above but more focused on a single, pertinent issue. A briefing is a chance for issue experts to present ideas, research, reports or other information to others also interested in the issue. You can invite elected officials to make remarks at such a briefing and encourage them or their staff to attend and hear the other presentations.

Congressional Record Statement
Members of Congress regularly make floor statements or insert comments into the Congressional Record, the official transcript of all congressional business. Often these statements highlight significant local accomplishments or activities. National Community Planning Month is a perfect fit for a Congressional Record statement. Take a moment to draft text related to National Community Planning Month and ask your Representative to make a statement. Although the statement itself has little impact, it does serve to remind the congressional office of your work and role in the community and helps build a more productive relationship.

Website or Newsletter Article
Every APA chapter has a website and newsletter. Consider asking your Member of Congress to draft an article or op-ed for publication. As with Congressional Record statements, the request is a chance to further build a positive relationship with that congressional office.

Local Award
Some Members of Congress have made special contributions to local planning. If your Representative falls into this category, the chapter might consider giving a special recognition award as part of National Community Planning Month activities or a regular chapter events or conferences.

Campaign Town Hall Meeting
Election season may provide special opportunities to raise the profile of planning with elected officials. Many candidates hold town hall meetings to get input from voters. Attend these events, bring material describing National Community Planning Month, and ask questions about candidate's position on planning and planning issues.

Campaign Debates
Similar to the town hall meetings described above, candidate debates are also opportunities to engage with legislators. In many debate formats, audience members or local organizations have a chance to submit questions. Try to get planning issues and questions into the list of issues that candidates address during the course of the debate. Some chapters may also want to consider joining with other local or state organizations in sponsoring these debates. Sponsoring a debate does not imply involvement in electoral politics but rather raises the public profile of your issues in the minds of candidates and voters.

APA can help you plan and implement any of these ideas. Or you may have lots of other creative approaches to pursue. Make engaging elected officials a part of National Community Planning Month in your area. Contact APA's Government Affairs staff with questions or comments at govtaffairs@planning.org or 202-872-0611.