In July I attended a PLANET (Professional Landcare Network) event in Washington, D.C. This was really two occasions rolled into one: A Renewal & Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery and Legislative Day on the Hill. The first involved more than 400 PLANET members spreading 120 tons of lime over 275 acres, aerating 18 acres and planting 39 trees on the grounds of this historic national treasure. After this memorable and sobering experience, then came our visit to Congress.
To prepare members for their Congressional meetings, Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the “Cook Political Report,” made the keynote speech that could have been titled “Everything I Needed to Know about Lobbying I Learned in Kindergarten.” I was struck by his simple message imploring us to effectively promote our causes by using the basic good manners we were all taught as children. “Don’t tell them they’re morons,” Cook advised good-naturedly. “Make cogent arguments and gently steer them in the right direction.” He suggested we let our Congressional representatives know we really want to follow the law when it comes to issues such as immigration, health care and pesticide application, but we need our lawmakers to create reasonable laws. It brought to mind the prohibition amendment of the 1920s – an unreasonably strict ban on alcohol that only led to underground, illegal behavior which brought prosperity only to lawbreakers.
“Mom taught us to say ‘thank-you,'” Cook continued. “So when your Congressmen do something good, send them a note or an e-mail and say, ‘Thanks, good job. I appreciate you supporting our industry.'” Cook also pointed out another elementary school basic: “Find out who your friends are, and stick with them.” In other words, find out which representatives are friends of our industry, vote for them, and encourage your friends in the industry to do the same.
I admit, my first thought on Legislative Day was, “What could be more agonizing than a morning spent meeting with a bunch of politicians?” But by the end of the day, I’d made a 180-degree turn on my viewpoint. I extend my gratitude to the members of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, who allowed me to join them as they met with several of their state’s legislative aides. Most representatives and senators were preoccupied with the Senatorial hearings for Sotomayor, but PLANET members were welcomed by legislative aides who listened and took notes to present to their legislators. I was impressed by Colorado’s working landscape designers, nurserymen and chemical applicators who took time away from their businesses to travel to D.C. to eloquently lobby on behalf of all of us in the green industry. And there were members from 27 other states visiting their Congressional leaders.
I’m glad we have an organization like PLANET to promote the causes of the green industry. I hope you will visit the PLANET Web site and join this worthy organization. And I hope to see you in Washington, D.C., for the 14th annual Legislative Day on the Hill in 2010.
For more information about the Legislative Day on the Hill and Renewal & Remembrance, including a full listing of proposed legislation affecting the green industry, event sponsors and a listing of your legislators, visit the PLANET Web site at www.landcarenetwork.org.