For Release: October 25, 2000
ALBANY - Strengthening the grassroots private property rights movement was the theme of an electric gathering of property rights activists held just outside the New York State Capitol on October 21. Speaking from their personal experience, expert speakers from New York to Alaska honed the conferees' understanding of how to "Organize for Success."
Inspiration was not lacking at the Fifth Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, which was sponsored by the Property Rights Foundation of America. Not only was each of the topical speakers who addressed specific practical areas of organizing an inspiration for his or her leadership in private property rights, but the keynote speaker brought the audience to its feet in applause with his talk about "Freedom-The way Up From Racism and Poverty."
Humor and irony were the tools of Reginald G. Jones,
as he related anecdotes from black American history and his own
life growing up in the South Bronx. He told first-hand stories
from the early days of Rap music, which led musicians from local
neighborhoods to national success.
"The phenomenon of Rap was that we weren't just employees of record companies, but owned them," he said, reiterating the theme of independence that flowed through his stories, whether of the Harlem Renaissance or of the black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Rappers are producing and directing their own movies now.... taking power. Nobody gives you power; you take it," he remarked with a light smile. "When there's absolutely open competition, we excel."
With the same ironic smile, Mr. Jones asked, "Why would you support a system that destroyed your neighborhood?" His love of his old block was infectious. After hearing him, could anyone accept the attacks on black neighborhoods by "urban renewal"?
"Racism did not destroy our neighborhoods. Government did," he said. "If we continue to use the black population as mascots for socialism, then all is lost."
Instead, he said, "Reach out for the best system known to mankind, capitalism."
Organizing Advice from Top Leaders:
In her welcome to the conference, Carol W. LaGrasse, president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, applauded the grassroots leaders who had gathered for the day. "The skills and inspiration to be had today are indeed bountiful," she said. "This information taken to heart, the property rights movement will truly go forward with power."
Joining Forces and Reaching Out. "If we all work together one county at a time, we can take this country back," urged J. Zane Walley, in his rousing opening address. "Jay" Walley, who edits The Paragon Powerhouse, published in Lincoln, New Mexico, had just pitched in with an alliance of Amish people and the other farmers to successfully hold off a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to preserve the land in the beautiful Darby countryside outside of Columbus, Ohio, for wildlife instead of people.
Quality Organizing. Panel chair Walter H. Olsen, Sr., focused his many years of experience fighting for private property owners into just a few remarks. One of the founders of Civil Property Rights Associates, Inc., which is in court to defend private property owners in the Long Island Pine Barrens "core area," he never fails to attend the meetings of the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission. "If an individual has a problem and goes before the commission, he's like a sitting duck. They're going to pick them off one at a time," he said. "The only thing they're going to fear is it it's done on an organized level."
Sustaining a Local Property Rights Group. Drawing a parallel with PRFA, Barry Klein, the president of the Houston Property Rights Association, said, "We have sustained ourselves with money and volunteers."
His long-lived, nationally respected organization was successful on one particular local issue because three dedicated people worked for two to three hours weekly for two years. A committee to do outreach and coalition building, with a speakers bureau, is key, he said. He advises targeting civic associations, such as the 1,000 in Houston. At times, "pick minor issues, issues that are justice issues," he said. People need "an easy win," he said.
"Show how your activity has its counterpart in other cities." "We've survived by being a good watchdog," he said. They gave out 8,000 flyers in a recent historic ordinance fight. Lastly, he said, returning to his opening, "Encourage donors. Ours see the product of their funding almost monthly."
Reaching Your Representative. Jeff Williams, Assistant Director of Governmental Relations for the New York Farm Bureau, drew from a wealth of knowledge about lobbying to make important, easily understood points: Know your audience, keep it simple and support legislation, keep it local, and give kudos when deserved. Among his many concise points were that both letters and telephone calls were important in their place. He pointed out that keeping matters focused during a visit saves the legislator's time. He urged pairs of activists, including one from the legislator's district, to rehearse working as a tag team when they plan a visit to a legislator. Afterwards, write a thank you letter. Coalition building and dealing effectively with the media are essential. Finally, Mr. Williams pointed out that public thanks are in order when a legislator helps the cause.
The Power of Information. Bruce G. Siminoff, author, of Califon, New Jersey, has spent many years effectively using books, testimony, and other writing to shine the light of day on government wrongs. Describing injustices in New Jersey, such as the control of private land by the State-appointed Pinelands Commission, he led to the broad observation, "The environmentalists have a stranglehold on everything we do in New Jersey." But in recent years he has co- founded a newspaper through which, "We hold their feet to the fire." Now the members of the Legislature call to ask, "Please do not print that," but the newspaper, The Patriot, prints the story anyway and volunteers put a copy on every Senator's and Assemblyman's box.
Fund-Raising-The Nuts and Bolts of Advocacy. Kevin Gentry, vice president of the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, shared the inner points of making the finances for a grassroots organization successful. Starting with the seemingly obvious, he said that you should make sure you ask, which groups sometimes fail to do. He then placed solicitations in order of effectiveness, with the personal most effective, followed by letters, which are the most cost-efficient, and finally the e-mail and internet. Events are most expensive in hard cost and time, and he advised groups to shy away from them. Along with many other useful principles, he said that a group should go first to the people who know you and to people who are contributors, and that people should always be thanked, be given credit for what they have helped make possible, and invited to participate in the organization.
Communicating Your Cause. Panel chair Thomas A. Miller, the co-founder of Allegany Citizens Rights Committee and an Allegany Town Board Member, pointed out that Barry Klein has helped more people than he knows of. He said that zoning went to a referendum recently in Wetmore Township, Pennsylvania. The vote was 47 for zoning and 399 against, with the help of Barry Klein's publications, he pointed out. Our panel chair did not call attention to the following: Recently the Town of Machias, New York, defeated zoning, and leading citizens there said that the turning point was Tom Miller's visit to the town board meeting, where he made a persuasive speech about the problems of zoning.
The Web-Unlimited Outreach. The Internet work of Ray Kreig and Lee Ann Gerhart based in Anchorage, Alaska, played a key part in the successful battle to stop the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, known as CARA. A professional engineer and geologist, Ray Kreig explained the featured elements of the American Land Rights web site about CARA. "A website is a powerful weapon to use when fighting against well-financed and entrenched opponents that avoid rational discussion of your issues," he pointed out.
With a separate page for each division, the CARA web site distributed the latest alerts, kept track of the status of CARA in Congress, provided detailed sources of information both in thumbnail sketches and hotlinks to the full text, dissected the complicated cash flows, published abuses that have resulted from government land acquisition, and invited readers to take action.
Lee Ann Gerhart, who is an independent certified public accountant, is credited with the excellent statistics with the powerful graphics that displayed the CARA boondoggle and the inequity among states in the distribution of funds that CARA's chief sponsors had in mind. She presented a concise course, "How-to Basics for a Website on the Fly," assuring the listeners, "You can create an easy-to-navigate website in five minutes or less and have it cost you nothing!" Her sample website has hotlinks to over 100 "Private Property Rights Friends and Allies."
Keys to a Successful Newsletter. In her humorous, at times profound speech, Adrian R. Tiemann, Ph.D., president of Homeowners Against Rent Kontrols (HARK), applied the principles she presented to have a successful newsletter. Her ten points to help you to get started toward a fine newsletter are: (1) Determine the message to be conveyed; (2) Define the audience; (3) Check out the competition; (4) Pick a niche; (5) Choose a voice; (6) Choose a format; (7) Choose a schedule; (8) Get continual feedback from subscribers; (9) Link your message to other, not always apparently related issues; and (10) Insert humor. Of course, her speech illustrated each point with delightful wit. This, she mentioned, was the voice selected for her newsletter.
Media Success. Michael Hardiman, the owner
of Hardiman Consulting, took just enough time away from
fighting against CARA to catch flights back and forth from Washington,
D.C., and give a speech to the Fifth Annual Conference about how
he uses the media to lobby successfully. He said that he worked
with the national property rights movement, then reached out to
other cores, including a national taxpayer group. He used slogans
that attacked credibility, such as "Porkbarrel Land Grab,"
and coopted an opposition press conference by appearing in prison
uniforms and giving out pork rinds. He photographed an overflowing
trash bin at Lake Meade Recreation Area.
In dealing with the legislature, he said, there is a place for both an inside operator and an outside operator, but it is paramount to visit for the first, second, third, and even fourth time. He pointed out that after your Senator votes the way you, be sure to say thank you. Be sure to celebrate your victories.
Reaching the World through Local Television and Web TV. Gary Edwards, of Edwards Production Television in Massena, New York, pointed out "The conventional media doesn't do a very good job on what's important."
"One local resource that's important is local television. The two local television stations are leased cable and public access. They need programming. It's a beast that has an appetite that never quits," he advised the conferees. "There's nothing worse than a blank screen. And it comes back again, with re-runs, as much as four times in 24 hours."
"People are interested in what's going on in their own town. They want to see real people," he observed. "That's what community television is. It's real people telling you how they feel."
Gary Edward's web TV station is: www.weptv.com. The station streams a multitude of original broadcasts, including important subjects related to private property rights, such as interviews of Carol LaGrasse and hunters whose clubs are scheduled to be demolished because of the DEC purchase of the Champion International land. PRFA has organized a lawsuit to challenge this acquisition.
Closing Address: Burning Issues-The Dangers of Government
A very timely book was just published by the title, A Burning Issue, written by conference speaker Robert H. Nelson, Ph.D., author of six books and Professor of Environmental Policy, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland. Having spent eighteen years in the federal government, in the federal lands area, Prof. Nelson concludes that a lot of what was there should be abolished. He pointed out that the United States contains two billion acres of land, of which 600 million acres are owned by the Federal government. The U.S. Forest Service owns 192 million acres, or ten percent of the land area of the United States. Earlier this year in Forbes magazine, Prof. Nelson called for the country to abolish the Forest Service.
"This year we're going to spend about one billion dollars on fire suppression" he said. "Control of fire and fire management was supposed to be one of their supreme examples of their fire management skills." He delivered an incisive speech about the history of building up the volumes of fuel in the National Forests, and failure to deal with this threat as expert reports, one after another, pointed out the urgent need for changes in policy. "We've created a set of fire trap forests", he said. The Los Alamos fire, which began the fire season, "wouldn't have been such a mess, if the forest weren't such a tinderbox," he said.
Prof. Nelson also pointed out that the forest fires were the largest sources of emissions of CO2 in the year. "If you were concerned about global warming, you would not want the forests to burn down every year."
Co-sponsors of the conference were the American Land Rights Association, Builders Institute of Westchester and Putnam Counties, Civil Property Rights Associates, Inc., Competitive Enterprise Institute, Farm Bureau of New York, Home Owners Against Rent Kontrols (HARK), New York Chapter - Land Improvement Contractors of America, Rent Stabilization Association of New York City, and The JM Foundation.
Tapes available. All of the speeches for the
entire Fifth Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights
are available on audio-cassette tape from ACTS, Inc., toll
Web site: www.actsconferenceproducts.com
Please select "Business" and then "Property Rights"