CCLers go ‘out of office’ for creative events with Congress

A group of college students sits around a picnic table with a Congressman

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA-21) attended a potluck and presentation hosted by CCL volunteers in his district.

CCLers go ‘out of office’ for creative events with Congress

By Flannery Winchester

This summer, CCL volunteers held a whopping 436 lobby meetings in one day on Capitol Hill. Did you see the photos? It was a fantastic day of advocacy that advanced our climate policy goals in Congress and our relationships with members of Congress.

But those relationships don’t start and end on Capitol Hill each June. Some of the best relationship building happens outside of those offices, as CCL volunteers make creative connections with lawmakers year-round in their districts and states. 

Here are three stories showing the diverse, delightful ways CCLers have connected with members of Congress in recent months.

Bipartisan ping pong in Utah

CCLers in Salt Lake City, Utah, organized a bipartisan ping pong tournament in April at Salt Lake City Table Tennis. They invited the Utah congressional delegation, state legislators, and local environmental groups all along the political spectrum. 

“This was designed to have no agenda but rather to bring these people together from across the political spectrum as a fun way to interact and get to know each other better,” says Regional Coordinator Bill Barron.

About 25 folks participated, including Rep. John Curtis (R-UT-03), a State Senator, and a couple of Representatives. “Those attending had fun hitting the ball around, and there was plenty of socializing and relationship building,” Bill says.

A congressman stands smiling with two CCL volunteers, one man and one woman. Second photo shows congressman playing ping pong

(Left) Rep. John Curtis, liaison Tom Moyer, and CCL Wasatch Back group leader Lauren Barros. (Right) Rep. John Curtis at the ping pong table, with State Reps. Jeffrey Stenquist and James Dunnigan playing in the background.

Community climate conversations in Minnesota

The West Suburbs, Minnesota, chapter kept the bipartisan energy going with a “Community Conversation on Climate Solutions” this spring. They supported Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN-03) to host the event, which took a Braver Angels-style approach to bring together 24 participants, split between conservatives and liberals. 

“A number of CCL volunteers discussed the concept with the office, organized by the liaison Winnie Lindstam, and turned the concept into reality,” says chapter member Greg Jason. “This type of discussion was only possible due to years of positive meetings and interactions with Rep. Phillips and his staff to build trust.”

In the invitation to the event, Rep. Phillips wrote, “By now you probably know that I’m an optimist. It’s not always easy when it comes to climate change, but inaction is irresponsible and destructive. That’s why conversations like these are so important.” 

At the event, CCL volunteers Rod Fisher, Tim Conners, Alix Dvorak, Greg Jason, and Mike Overend led three breakout sessions on various climate solutions using the En-ROADS policy simulator, and Bruce Morlan acted as the conservative counterpart to Rep. Phillips, a Democrat.

The event was even covered by the local TV news! Check out the segment: 

Potluck and presentation in California

In May, CCL Fresno volunteer Andrea De Zubiria was planning an event at her home: a potluck meal and a presentation about sustainable aviation, given by CCL volunteer and recently retired FedEx pilot Pete Moe.

Prompted by CCL’s January and February Action Sheets, Andrea decided to reach out to the five members of Congress that the Fresno chapter works with. She invited them to come to the event and make some remarks about their thoughts on climate solutions. 

“I heard back from just one — Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA-21), who represents the neighborhood where we had the event,” Andrea says. His scheduler expressed the office’s interest, but when the day of the event arrived, Andrea wasn’t sure if it had made it onto the congressman’s schedule. 

But sure enough, she says, “about 15 minutes into the event, the Congressman came strolling into my backyard! He spent about an hour walking around to the four tables of about 25 attendees and chatting with everyone, while enjoying some chocolate chip cookies.” 

A group of college students sits around a picnic table with a Congressman

He spent the most time with the group of college students and recent graduates: Ashley Amezola, Christopher Fuentes, Akash Dhindsa, Bryan Lewis, Rob Jeffers and Fresno’s Youth Action Team mentor Gabe Yanez (pictured above in the yellow shirt). 

“I credit our lobby team leader Devin Carroll, liaison Sean Boyd, and volunteer extraordinaire Alex Desiga who built a friendly relationship with the Congressman’s staff person over a number of lobby meetings,” Andrea says.