In June, I took some notes at a workshop hosted by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm helping to build a grassroots resistance to the Trinity River Vision eminent domain abuse. The lead organization working on behalf of those affected in the county is Citizens Who Care.
Personally, I think opposition to the TRV is a great cause to support to protect individuals and businesses from the plunder of local bureaucrats. However, the hosts had some great tips for general activism in the future.
Mike Miller, from IJ’s Texas chapter, talked about the new eminent domain constitutional amendment that went into effect in Texas this year. There are some pluses and minuses to it. The matter left open is who determines if a project is primarily for “economic development,” which the new amendment forbids. The best-case scenario is that government judges will determine the purpose of contested eminent domain use. Otherwise, local governments will be able to deem that a project’s purpose is whatever they please, effectively neutralizing the constitutional amendment.
Christina Walsh is part of the Castle Coalition, the activism arm of IJ. Her focus is to defeat eminent domain abuse by building a local coalition against the project without ever having to litigate, a preemptive stike, if you will. She emphasized forming an effective organization and building a broad coalition among potentially affected constituents. Some examples of how to organize your allies, to make noise, and to work with media are online.
Here are some bullet points Walsh presented.
- Identify others potentially threatened: property owners, renters, employees, customers, suppliers, tax payers, those who could face similar threats in the future, ect.
- Create a broad coalition with one unifying message
- Get local political officials and media on your side
- Find respected academics to support your findings, recruit college students
- Use current members to recruit others
- Distribute fliers: door-to-door, at businesses, or post
- Go where the crowds are
- Utilize sign-in sheets to retain contact information
- Welcome new members
- Match talents with tasks
- Define Victory
- Get online: keep everyone current; give visitors five things they can do now; use social networking sites like Facebook
- Speak at every public meeting
- Hold rallies and protest — be visible
- Working with the Media
- Humanize and personalize your issue
- Present facts reporters can wrap their heads around
- Repeat concise sound bites
- Distribute one-pagers that are easily digestible
- Offer an alternative
- Respond en masse to all media publicity
- Expose myths
- Get published in any format possible