Participants in a community involvement conference in Salt Lake City Saturday were challenged to form a legislative task force to lobby against double taxation in Salt Lake County.
David Spatafore, a lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, told Salt Lake City residents they are paying double for law enforcement and other services that benefit unincorporated sections of Salt Lake County, yet their lobbying efforts in the Legislature are being outdone by lobbyists from the unincorporated areas."You need to become as viable as your county counterparts," Spatafore said. Spatafore, a city resident, offered his help in organizing such an effort.
Spatafore, who also owns a private government consulting firm, was one of four panelists at a Saturday workshop on how to wage a successful battle against city hall or Capitol Hill.
Other panelists included Pete Suazo from Salt Lake mayor's office; Earl Hardwick, a former Salt Lake City Council member; and Joe Duke Rosati, a lobbyist for the Salt Lake Community Action Program, a low-income advocacy group.
In fighting city hall, Spatafore suggested that community activists become involved in local issues as early as possible. He also urged conference participants to get to know both elected officials and staff personnel. City staff usually prepare reports for the planning commission and City Council, he said.
Hardwick said the key to dealing with elected officials is to make personal contact with them and those who can influence them.
"Know those (elected officials) and know what motivates them," Hardwick said.
The panelists seemed to agree that the key to lobbying success is targeting officials whose votes are changeable.
Referring to last year's zoning controversy between University of Utah fraternities and neighboring Federal Heights residents, Hardwick said, "I got 400 pounds of mail . . . after the first 50 (pounds) I didn't read it."
Spatafore said timing is key to influencing community issues. He told lobbyists they will be most effective if they make their biggest push right before critical votes.
Suazo, building on Spatafore's suggestion for participants to win and lose with dignity, said activists can't afford to burn any bridges.
"Even when you have that 5-gallon can of gas and the person is deserving of the match, don't do it," Suazo said.
He also said that "sharing and wearing" a problem with officials is effective. Mayor Palmer DePaulis has been more responsive to issues after visiting sites related to problems, Suazo said.
Spatafore said preparing factual data for elected bodies will help lobbyists get their point across. "Emotion is not going to sway any argument . . . people react against that."
Rosati, who moderated the panel discussion, told conference participants to also work through news media in addressing community issues.