10 energizing endorsement stories
By Flannery Winchester
Municipal resolutions, leader’s letters, and other endorsements are a particularly meaningful arm of our outreach efforts. When a community leader, a city council, or even a state legislature endorses Carbon Fee and Dividend, that sends an incredibly strong message to Congress about the appetite for climate solutions back home.
Each endorsement has a unique story of the relationships that made it possible, the meetings that pushed it forward, and the day it became official. For this anniversary post, we’re taking a look at 10 endorsement stories (plus one big bonus!) from CCL chapters across the country.
1. 101 leader’s letters from Wisconsin
In the fall of 2016, Bill Bussey organized eight CCL volunteers in northern rural Wisconsin to work together to get as many CFD endorsements as possible. They started by sending 1100 emails to businesses, business groups, chambers, clergy, local elected officials and other community leaders.
After making hundreds of follow-up phone calls to all of the potential endorsers, the team started scheduling meetings. Bill recalls that they were most successfully with the folks they knew personally, but many others signed too, especially after face to face meetings with local business groups, chambers of commerce, and elected officials. After about four months of work, the team effort yielded an astounding 101 signed endorsements!
2. Municipal resolution from Allentown, PA
The process to pass a CF&D resolution took roughly six months from start to finish. It began when a CCL Lehigh Valley group member spoke to the City Council during the public comment period of a meeting about the need to take action on climate change and suggested they support carbon fee and dividend as a solution.
Three CCL volunteers next met with the City Council President, explaining CF&D to him, and giving him a draft resolution. He was very supportive and directed them to meet with a subcommittee to get approval before bringing it to the City Council for a vote.
Chapter members spoke at a public subcommittee meeting, where the subcommittee passed the proposal to the city council on a 2 to 1 vote. The total number of city council members was nine, and they needed five votes to pass the resolution.
Although it was a very long meeting, many people who were not CCL members stayed and spoke up for CF&D. The chapter, led by volunteer Martha Christine, had invited the local university’s Chair of Sustainability to speak and he, along with six CCL volunteers, spoke on different aspects of CF&D and the Climate Solutions Caucus. The resolution passed on June 21, 2017, on an 8-1 vote.
3. Business, NGO and elected official endorsements in New Jersey
CCL volunteer Joe Chiarell has secured endorsements from a broad swath of leaders, including six local business owners in Rep. Leonard Lance’s district (NJ07), three green organizations, and a former EPA Chief Administrator. Joe mostly worked solo to get these endorsements, connecting with the owners of places where he shops—an electronics company, a wine distributor, a honey maker, a bike shop, and his dentist.
It took six months to secure an endorsement from Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of the EPA, but New Jersey State Senator Kip Bateman (R) signed on the spot as if she had been waiting for Joe to arrive. “I appreciate your effort. I want to preserve the environment,” Bateman said. Making presentations with CCL volunteer Nadine Sapirman, Joe has also secured endorsements from three state legislators.
These efforts surely made a difference in Rep. Leonard Lance’s decision to sign on to the Republican Climate Resolution and join the Climate Solutions Caucus. Oh, and the 770 constituent comment forms Joe’s chapter generated didn’t hurt either!
4. Municipal resolution from Portland, ME
This chapter, led by volunteer Sarah Braik, had an easy time getting a CF&D resolution passed by this liberal city council. The entire process took only four months. CCL volunteer Peter Monro drafted a resolution which went before a three-member Sustainability Committee.
The Committee selected a version of the resolution they wanted, made some tweaks, and then voted unanimously to send it on to City Council. It took a while for the resolution to be placed on the Council’s agenda and, in the interim, each council member was contacted to enlist their support.
When it was placed on the city council’s calendar on June 19, 2017, several CCL members attended and testified. There are nine council members, of which three are members of the sustainability committee. Among the council members, there was concern about the effects on lower income brackets, and CCL volunteers spent time allaying their fears. They had come prepared!
The City Council was, at the same time, involved in the approval process of their “Clean Energy by 2040” plan and an overhaul of the Comprehensive Plan, so the CF&D resolution dovetailed nicely. A woman from the audience stepped up to testify on behalf of the resolution. She was not a CCL member but had seen the devastating effects of climate change on small island nations and in Africa, when she worked as a photojournalist. Peter spoke with her afterward, and she joined CCL. At the end of the testimony period, the Council voted unanimously 9-0 to pass the CF&D resolution.
5. Mars Inc. endorsement
Mars Inc., the confectioner, has $33 billion in annual sales and is the 6th largest privately owned business in the US. New Jersey CCL volunteer Richard Larsen has a master’s degree in meteorology and worked at Mars Inc. for 24 years researching risks to cocoa crop productions around the world, creating price protections on commodities, and working with buyers on supply chain purchasing decisions. He has now been in CCL’s Mont Clair chapter for about three years.
In 2015, eight years after retiring from Mars, Richard contacted his former boss, Mars’ Chief Sustainability Officer to ask him to sign CCL’s Action on Climate leader letter. It was an easy yes. Mars is progressive on climate, has committed to being carbon neutral worldwide no later than 2040, and plans to be well-positioned when the inevitable price on carbon is enacted. Being ready is a business advantage.
6. Municipal resolution from Bloomington, IN
Bloomington is the liberal hub of Indiana. “Environmental issues are always popular,” said group leader Alex Jorck, who worked on passage of the CF&D resolution. Two years ago, his CCL group made a presentation to the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability and asked for their endorsement. After a follow-up meeting to answer questions, the Commission voted to sign a leader’s letter.
Their current mayor is pro-sustainability issues. Some of the CCL members have a personal relationship with him. They met with the mayor, and he was happy to sign on but wanted the city council to sign on as well. He suggested that they pass a resolution. The Mayor recommended which council members to approach who would be most favorable. They reached out to them, and the council members were very interested and encouraging.
It took a while to get a resolution drafted by the City Clerk and city council members. CCL provided some material on resolutions which had passed.
Everything went pretty smoothly, but it took almost a year to complete the process because getting on the council’s schedule was difficult and took several months. In the end, the eight council members unanimously passed the resolution on March 1, 2017.
When asked what was the most important thing that led to passage of the CF&D resolution, Jorck said, “The relationships that already existed were absolutely the key to our success.” After the resolution passed, a group member wrote an LTE about it and contacted the local newspaper.
7. Municipal resolution from Ann Arbor, MI
In the end it was easy, but it took a long time to pass a CF&D resolution. The Ann Arbor CCL group, led by Ginny Rogers, offered to give a presentation to the Energy Commission in December 2015. After giving them a short presentation, they asked the commission to endorse passing a resolution. The commission tabled the resolution at first, but early this year, they brought it up again.
The Ann Arbor CCL group found out the day before that the resolution was going to be brought up at a city council meeting. Three of their members signed up to speak during the public comment period. The resolution wasn’t discussed a lot, but this main question was brought up by the council members: Shouldn’t the resolution be stronger? It doesn’t ask us to do anything. Shouldn’t we send a message to our representatives that we’re recommending this?
The council decided to add language directing the city to send a copy of the resolution to the climate leadership council, senators and representatives. They went one step further, adding language to the resolution that “directs the City Administrator to devise a plan to effectively advocate the Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan and describe actionable efforts the City can take to get that plan adopted.” At that city council meeting on August 21, 2017, the 10 members voted unanimously to pass the CF&D resolution.
CCL Ann Arbor isn’t resting on their laurels. They plan to give a presentation on CF&D to the city staff, including the City Administrator, council members, sustainability department, and key staff members, and to answer their questions as part of a continuing outreach effort.
8. Rochester leader’s letters
Inspired by hearing Jay Butera speak at a CCL regional conference in March 2015, Sarah Mittiga brought the “leader’s letter” idea back to her Rochester chapter.
Her chapter set the bar high: 50 letters. The group started to brainstorm who to go after, first picking the low-hanging fruit by asking, “Who do I know that will sign easily?” They got 50 letters very quickly, and they were a combination of letters for climate action and Carbon Fee & Dividend.
Then, one of their volunteers attended the 2016 June conference for the first time and learned just how important endorsements really are. She also learned some strategies for getting up to the high hanging fruit and building relationships just like we do with members of Congress. Since then, this group has achieved a proclamation in support of CF&D from the Rochester City Council as well as an endorsement letter from Arunas Chesonis, a local entrepreneur.
9. Municipal resolution from Carrboro, NC
This resolution was passed by the town of Carrboro, which is one of the most liberal cities in North Carolina. The Raleigh-Durham chapter, led by Don Addu, was tabling for the fourth time at the University of North Carolina Science Festival, an annual festival held in April.
At the festival, they met a man named Bruce who sits on the Carrboro Environmental Board. Don asked if he could give a presentation to the board, which included one town council member. Bruce scheduled time for Don to speak at their next meeting in May 2017.
It was a 45 minute session of questions and answers and, at the end, the board committed to recommending CCL’s proposal to the town council for a vote. Don requested that the president of the board let him know when the town council would be voting on the resolution.
After not hearing back for a while, Don followed up two weeks later, but heard nothing. A month passed, and he asked again when the resolution might be voted on and got no response. The following month he sent another email, and the president responded that the town council had voted on the resolution two months before, in June, and that it had passed unanimously. What a surprise!
Having learned that it had passed in June, Don and one of the volunteers read through all of the meeting minutes for all of the meetings in June until they found when the vote had taken place. Once they had the date of the vote, June 27, Don was able to reach out to the Record of Deeds for the city of Carrboro, who provided a certified copy of the signed resolution.
From the time members of Raleigh-Durham group first met Bruce until the time the resolution passed was only two months, which is likely the shortest amount of time that any of our resolutions have been passed, so this was a record!
10. Ski & outdoor industry endorsements
Bill Barron, who worked part time as a ski patrol at Alta, knows the ski industry first hand. Bill wanted to get more ski and outdoor industry businesses to get on board with climate action and Carbon Fee & Dividend. At first, many of these companies did not want to be seen as “political” since their clientele comes from across the political spectrum.
Bill knew that professional athlete Angel Collinson was concerned and very passionate about climate change, so he approached her to endorse CFD, and she did. Bill also had the idea for her to create a video to get the point across that even though she uses a lot of fossil fuels, she wants to pay the true cost. She is really popular in the industry, and early endorsements like this made it possible for many others to follow. “Successes have been from leveraging one endorsement to another,” Bill explained. “It made it safer for others to join in.”
Eventually, in fall of 2016, the Ski & Outdoor Industry Action Team started. The team continues to grow their endorsement list. They’ve even connected with a few general managers from ski areas who are willing to join in meeting with members of Congress, which Bill finds invaluable, almost more so than the endorsement itself.
“We have a solution that gives the industry a voice,” Bill said. See all this team’s endorsements here.
*Bonus!* California State Resolution AJR43
On August 23, 2016, the California State Senate voted to approve a nonbinding joint resolution calling on Congress and the President to enact a carbon-based tax on fossil fuels, returning all the proceeds to middle- and low-income Americans. The state-level resolution is the first of its kind in the nation.
This major success story began with a chance encounter between CCL Santa Barbara group leader John Kelley and Assemblyman Das Williams in August 2015 at a restaurant in Santa Barbara, which led to a meeting in which they discussed CCL’s carbon fee and dividend policy and the possibility of a state resolution or law. After that meeting, Assemblyman Williams’ office and CCL groups statewide began the process of making California the first state to pass a carbon fee and dividend resolution.
CCL’s California state and regional coordinators jumped into action, putting together a Core Committee, a one-page position paper listing key talking points, and setting up meetings with state senators and their staff using CCL’s liaison model. CCLers were involved in getting local teams to meet with their state representatives in their offices.
The Core Committee rallied dozens of CCLers from all over the state to attend and testify at a Senate Committee hearing, focused on Republicans with support from CCL’s Conservative Caucus, and got hundreds of support calls from CCLers, their family and friends, and support groups. Thirty-five CCL volunteers from across the state traveled to Sacramento to voice support for the CF&D resolution, two of whom testified at the hearing. The chairman expressed astonishment at the number of CCLers who filled the room. The Senate committee passed the resolution, sending it on to the full Senate for a vote.
After a year of dedicated effort by CCL volunteers throughout the state, California once again showed its leadership by passing a CF&D resolution on August 23, 2016, which was sent to the President and Vice-President of the United States, to the speaker of the House of Representatives, to the Majority Leader of the Senate, to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States, and to the author for distribution. This was a dynamic example of CCL transitioning from CFD advocacy and education into direct lobbying on an active bill.