Advancing Advocacy: How We Adapted to Change

Scott Mooneyham, NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination

NCLM’s regular legislative update webinars keep members informed on the most pressing happenings at the General Assembly.

If the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced one idea throughout society, it is that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. That adage was seen in how people adjusted to the loss of the ability to meet and converse in-person, especially in large gatherings, with examples springing up everywhere—whether in remote work environments, new types of shopping experiences, or even outdoor worship services.

For an organization like NCLM, where meeting with local elected and appointed officials to understand and then attempt to address the challenges of cities and towns, the change of circumstances was especially tough. But we adapted. And one of the early ways that we did so was through the creation of our virtual advocacy meeting series, Advancing Advocacy.

It has now been nearly three years since NCLM’s Government Affairs staff held the first of these virtual meetings in the early April of 2020.

At the time, then-NCLM Grassroots Associate Christine Heubusch told those attending: “As you may know, we plan on continuing this virtual briefing, which we call Advancing Advocacy, each week at the same time for the foreseeable future. With less face-to-face contact, we hope to utilize this time to provide you with the information needed to continue to be key advocates on behalf of cities. These are unpredictable times, but we know that a lot of decisions that are going to be coming from Raleigh and Washington over the next several weeks are going to be important to our recovery and to the future of your town, and we are committed to being there to get the best results possible.”

It was a crucial time for municipalities, facing the uncertainty of what might happen to revenue streams from sales taxes, utility fees and occupancy taxes, and how state and federal policy makers would respond.

With such uncertainty in the air, the virtual meetings began as weekly events. And the participation of representatives of member cities and towns clearly demonstrated the need. Early on, virtual attendees numbered between 200 and 300. The information discussed was seen as vital.

There were presentations on the impact of the pandemic on economic activity and local budgets, the federal CARES Act and how it was being administered, state legislative efforts addressing budget challenges, and NCLM letter-writing and other advocacy actions to communicate municipal needs.

Outside presenters were also a part of the plan, with topics ranging from how the U.S. Census count would work in a pandemic landscape, how the restaurant and lodging industry saw the economic challenges, and the possible paths of economic recovery.

Of course, eventually the effects of the pandemic eased, and society began to return to some sense of normalcy.

Advancing Advocacy, though, has continued. The necessities of 2020 have created what is now seen as an effective and ongoing addition to our advocacy-related communication. While the need and circumstances no longer necessitate every-week sessions, or garner those 200-plus attendees, the more spread-out sessions still see 60 to 100 League members attending.

And our staff still sees these sessions as an effective way to communicate with you about the important happenings at the General Assembly and elsewhere affecting municipal-related public policy. So, keep on looking out for notifications of the meetings, and keep attending so that we can keep working together to advance the collective needs of North Carolina’s cities and towns.