Montana chapter pulling all levers for climate
By Gwyneth Lonergan
If you’re a member of CCL, you’ve probably heard of our five levers of political will. These are the core activities that all CCL chapters use to successfully promote carbon pricing policies in their communities and at the national level. Our core volunteer trainings are a great way to deepen your understanding of these levers.
Another way to learn more? Reading about volunteers who are pros at pulling the levers! In the state of Montana, co-state coordinators Robin Paone and Kristen Walser are illustrating the successes that can come when these levers work together.
Robin Paone says she has always cared about the environment and, after retiring from a career as a software engineer, she was thrilled to find a new “career” with an organization like CCL. About this life change, she says, “I knew I needed to advocate for effective solutions that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, would agree upon. Otherwise I knew it just wouldn’t stick until we got the problem solved.” After stumbling upon CCL on the internet in October 2018, Robin attended the next weekly informational session with CCL’s Field Development Director, Elli Sparks and left “completely hooked!”
Turning ideas into reality
Robin named media relations and grasstops engagement as the levers of political will she utilizes most in her current work. “These are things that I’ve worked up to—I initially did not feel comfortable writing letters to the editor or speaking with business owners. But in my many adventures with CCL, I found it is currently the most rewarding for me.”
In October of 2020, Elli Sparks gave her Five Levers Organizing Workshop for the Montana chapters which spawned two print media writing teams in the state and resulted in a significant increase for overall social media presence. Robin says they are also seeing a strong interest from our Montana CCLers in gaining endorsements. “We’ve added more endorsers over the past year than in all years before.”
In May of 2021, the city council in Whitefish, Montana, unanimously passed a resolution for H.R. 2307. This is the very first resolution in the state of Montana and required some on-the-job learning with “invaluable coaching” from Mountain West Regional Coordinator Bill Barron. Robin says, “We have recently had several volunteers who have really stepped up their actions and had great success in several areas. I know this would not have happened without some great coaching help from Bill which gave us encouragement and ideas to get volunteers involved.”
The Flathead Valley chapter, with their co-leaders Robin and Angie Winter, are now working to get coverage of the resolution in local and state media and are finding success! Shortly after the resolution was passed, a story was published on the Whitefish Pilot’s front page about the action. You can read more about the resolution on CCL Community and in this LTE written by Robin in the Whitefish Pilot.
The endorsement by Whitefish’s city council will help not only the Flathead Valley chapter that pushed its passage, but all of CCL Montana’s chapters as they lobby their state’s members of Congress for climate action. Municipal resolutions and grasstops endorsements are tangible and impactful pieces of evidence you can point to in your next lobby meeting with your own MOCs.
While Robin is currently hooked on both the media and grasstops levers, in the end, she says, “We need action in all five levers of political will. Find your passion in CCL and go with it!”
Pull the levers together
One thing Robin loves about CCL is that you can try so many different kinds of climate action. “There are so many ways to jump in and act. I’ve also worn several hats: writing LTEs, tabling, helping put on workshops, supporting conferences, giving presentations, seeking endorsements from local businesses, forming lobby teams, and so much more.”
Robin suggests working on teams to get to know your fellow volunteers. “I’ve joined multiple action teams over the years. It’s always more fun to work with others on climate action.” She adds, “Plus, accomplishing something together builds a camaraderie that lasts.”Leaders of Montana’s four active chapters communicate often to celebrate successes, share news, and bounce ideas off one another.
And despite the pandemic,, that camaraderie has persisted. Chapter leaders have adapted to a virtual setting. Several Flathead Valley volunteers have taken the challenge head-on and the chapter has emerged with a hit: an adaptation to a monthly meeting that is both social and educational.
None of this would be possible without the amazing volunteers Robin works with every day. She is determined to give credit where credit is due. Just a few of the folks in Robin’s chapter that have put CCL Montana on the radar of state and federal legislators include Laura Reynolds, Maria Paula Angarita, Laurel Eastman, and Robin’s chapter co-leader Angie Winter. “It really takes a village!” Robin says.
Gwyneth Lonergan is a communications intern for CCL and a recent graduate of Wake Forest University with a BA in Politics & International Affairs and Theatre.