How To Pass a City Resolution that Challenges the Failed Drug War and US military aid to Colombia
Why Pass a Resolution?
A resolution is grassroots activism at its best! It’s like buying local food – you might not be able to change the global economy immediately (although that is what we ultimately want to do), but you know that buying local has a positive impact for your community. In the same way, the national policies that are being hashed out in DC might feel distant and hard to change. But you can have an impact in your own community by encouraging your city council to take a stand on issues that are important to you. Local resolutions send a message to Congressional Representatives in your area, that their constituents are concerned about this issue and are demanding a change!! In other words, City councils are an accessible way to have a direct impact on big politics and policies.
Passing a resolution is also a great way to build a local coalition of communities, people, organizations and activists who are concerned about a similar issue. In the process you will educate yourself and others, build a critical mass, get some media attention and be one more step in the direction towards creating change.
In this organizing packet, you will find:
- Five steps on how to pass a resolution in your city
- Sample Resolution
- Sample Press Advisory
- Sample Press Release
- Sample support letter to the mayor of your city
- Sample talking points
- Other resolution resources
- A list of cities that have passed similar resolutions
Step One: Educate Yourself
Start by exploring what the impact of substance abuse is in your city: How many people are drug users? How is the access to treatment programs? Do people have to wait a long time? Do they have to pay a lot of money? How many people are in jail for non-violent drug offenses? These questions can be answered through online research and by setting up meetings with local substance abuse, criminal justice or other social service organizations. The unique character of this kind of resolution is that it makes the link between a domestic and an international issue. It challenges our domestic policies that are affecting people in our own communities, our family members and loved ones and in that way, it is about the war at home. But it is also about the war abroad and how our policies are affecting people in other countries. This resolution is specifically focused on the impact the War on Drugs has on Colombia, but it has affected and will continue to affect Mexico, Afghanistan and other countries as well. In the process of educating yourself, set up meetings with the local Colombian community – what do they think about US military aid to Colombia? What has been the impact of the conflict on their lives? What do they think about the War on Drugs? Would they be willing to work on this issue together? What have been the impacts been for Mexico and Afghanistan?
Step Two: Build a Coalition
If you contacted organizations, activists and communities while you were in the process of educating yourself, you are already on your way to building a coalition! Invite those who you’ve already talked to and anyone else who might be interested to join you for an organizing meeting. At the meeting you can work from the resolution we’ve provided as a draft and the coalition can shape the language so that it best represents the needs and concerns of the communities and constituencies represented.
Step Three: Make a Plan of Action
At the meeting it will be important to consider the following questions:
- Will the city council be likely to pass this kind of resolution? To answer these questions, you might find out whether they have passed other similar resolutions (like opposing the war in Iraq, check Cities for Progress at: www.citiesforprogress.org).
- If the resolution seems likely to pass without too much opposition, you are ready to move on to step 4! If not…
- Generate public support through a petition: Identify the number of petition signatures you might need to pass a resolution of this kind (you want to send a message to your City Council that the issue is important to enough local residents that they will consider passing it). You can gather signatures both through events and by asking each member of the coalition to ask their friends and family to find five people each to sign the resolution. That way you will multiply your efforts! With these signatures, you can approach the council member with some well-documented support in favor of the resolution.
- Write letters to the editor: coordinate with folks from your petition to write letters to the editor that support the resolution. The editorial page is the most often read page in any newspaper, so that will raise awareness with the public about the pending resolution.
- Find both influential members and constituents in your community to call the council member and express their support for this particular resolution
Step Four: Find a Councilmember to Sponsor the Resolution
Identify the council member who will likely be most receptive to this resolution, set up a meeting with him/her to ask that he/she sponsor the resolution. Make sure that the meeting has representatives from a cross-section of the organizations who are working together on the resolution. Bring an education packet with you, including: talking points, a draft resolution, signed petitions, letters to the editor, other statements from organizations or associations in favor of the resolution and background information. Ask the Council Member to take the lead in seeking the support of other Council Members and to work on the draft resolution, making any changes he/she might deem appropriate.
Step Five: Pass the Resolution
When the resolution comes up for review at a City Council meeting, make sure you’ve taken a few preliminary steps to ensure that the event is covered by the local media and that as many town residents know about the initiative as possible. This will require:
- A press advisory, up to a week before the resolution is passed. You can download a sample press advisory here.
- A press release on the day of the resolution: you can download a sample press release here.
- Get the word out about the pending resolution in your networks through email, websites and calendar postings.
On the day of the resolution, make sure you have two or more speakers lined up as well as other supporters in the audience. If the resolution was passed, don’t forget to follow-up with the media afterwards, making sure that they received the press release and that they will be covering the story.