Your Voice Matters
Engaging with your representatives directly is an essential part of making change. Even though the public cannot attend governmental meetings in person right now, you can still share your thoughts virtually by contacting your local representatives. Representatives are still making important decisions and hearing from all of us helps guide the process. This is the cornerstone of democracy – they are elected to represent their constituents’ views. Additionally, contacting our representatives is the first step to cultivating important relationships with them.
Engaging in Public Meetings Remotely
The two platforms being used by Teton County and the Town of Jackson for Town Council, Board of County Commissioners, and Boards and Commissions meetings are Zoom and WebEx. This new technology isn’t the most intuitive system for everyone! It is imperative that members of the community retain their ability to participate in the public process, so here are some tips to ensure that your virtual public comment experience goes smoothly.
Where to find the meeting links
Meeting call-in information is available in the corresponding meeting agenda. To find the agendas follow the links below:
- Be early: try and load the meeting WebEx or Zoom before it begins. WebEx can take a couple minutes to load.
- If the Town or County pauses the meeting, you will need to refresh the stream. The meeting will not begin automatically again.
Tips for using Zoom
- Notify an attendee: let a legislator/staff member know that you plan to provide public comment. If you are having technical difficulties, they will know that there is a problem they need to address.
- If you want to provide a face-to-face comment virtually, you need to create a Zoom account.
- Once on the Zoom main page:
- Click “Join Meeting”
- Enter the Meeting ID – provided by the meeting host (often found in the meeting agenda, links to these agendas included above)
- Once you have entered the meeting, make sure your audio and video feed are on. You can allow audio and video on the bottom left of the screen
- To participate / give public comment:
- Click “Participants”
- Click “Raise hand”
Tips for using WebEx
The Town of Jackson has created detailed instructions on how to use this platform and the “Hand Raise” feature:
- Options for participating in a meeting – see page 2: Instructions to join a meeting via WebEx
Tips for Submitting Written Comment Remotely
- If you plan to send in a written public comment, it should be 300 words or less to able to be read aloud in 3 minutes.
- Submit your comment promptly: It should be sent no earlier than the previous meeting, but no later than an hour before the relevant meeting.
Town of Jackson Process
The Town has prepared a detailed document outlining how to send in public comments. The Town is conducting meetings via WebEx. The link to watch and participate in these meetings can be found on the meeting’s agenda.
Teton County Process
Teton County has also provided a guide outlining how to send in public comments. The County is conducting meetings via Zoom. The link to watch and participate these meetings can be found on the meeting’s agenda.
Need help crafting your public comment? Continue reading for general tips on comment writing and public speaking!
Giving Verbal Public Comment
- Be respectful: be sure to use the proper titles (councilor, mayor, madame chair, senator, etc.) when addressing individuals
- Be courteous: thank the representatives for their attention and dedication to public service
- Be personable: make sure to introduce yourself and say what town/county/district where you reside to label yourself as a constituent. Then mention the issue you will be referencing in your comment
- Tell a story: personal anecdotes are powerful. Use first person voice. How has the issue you are commenting on affect you? Why is this issue important to you?
- Learn more about storytelling here!
- Research your comment: if applicable, use scientific data to bolster your opinions (but don’t only talk data). Make sure that you are caught up with local happenings related to your comment. Has there been a vote recently? Are additional agencies or organizations getting involved? Is this issue gaining notoriety, and how? What specific examples can you give to bolster your position?
- Prepare a clear ask: do you want legislators to vote a certain way? Take action on a new issue? Approve or not approve a permit? Do you want a response, and from whom? What aspects of the topic do you support or disagree with?
- Be forward-thinking: offer new perspectives, solutions, or policy ideas related to your topic
- Be professional: avoid informal language, expletives, etc. Your comment will go on record and be accessible to the public.
Submitting Written Public Comment
Writing to your legislators may be the easiest way to contact them during the pandemic. Here are a few tips if you decide to write to your representatives:
- Be specific: use a relevant subject line for your letter or email and reference the legislation or issue you care about
- Be prompt: ensure that the concerned parties receive your comment prior to the germane meeting
- Identify yourself: include your street address in your comment to confirm your standing as a constituent
- Be brief: if possible, try and keep your comment to a few paragraphs and no more than one page. Avoid dense chunks of text and use paragraphs. Your comment should be able to be read aloud in 3 minutes.
- Be professional: avoid informal language, expletives, emoticons etc. Your comment will go on record and be accessible to the public.
- Double-check your grammar and make sure you are using active voice.
Submitting a Letter to the Newspaper
Writing a “Letter to the Editor” (LTE) in the local paper is a great way to draw public attention to issues. In addition to your local representatives seeing it, so will all of the paper’s readers. Gaining momentum on issues is an important way to enact change.
Below is the email contact for our local news source:
- Jackson Hole News & Guide and Jackson Hole Daily (Jackson, WY): email@example.com
In addition to following the above guidelines for written public comment, here are instructions for writing an LTE (from the Jackson Hole News & Guide website):
- Letters to the editor should be limited to approximately 400 words.
- Please use a double return between paragraphs.
- Letters are due by Monday at 5 p.m.
- Letters are meant as a forum for discussion of community issues.
- No thank yous.
- Guest editorials should be limited to approximately 800 words.
Public Comment Examples
Written Public Comment
Supportive: Nick Koinis – Wildlife Crossings
- “When I was a little kid, about third grade, my mom was driving us home from choir practice and I was resting my head against the window and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang. The car came to a screeching stop and I heard my mom curse which was an unusual sound for me. We had hit a deer, a big white-tail buck. When the sheriff came, he asked my mom if she had hit a cow because it totaled the front of our 1990 Dodge minivan with the white panel stripe. It was a really impactful moment for me as a kid. It was really frightening. Now I’m a driver, I live here in Jackson, and I’ve become aware of numerous wildlife-vehicle collisions that have happened in our community. We’ve heard about moose and all sorts of other animals that have been hit, and we’ve seen them on the side of the road. That’s why I’m here today. I know our community has done a lot of great things in the past. We’ve passed the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan at the county level which is amazing and a great start. I think there’s more that we can do as a community. Wildlife crossings work. They reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by 90% when they’re implemented. Here in our community between 2016-2017 we lost 247 mule deer, 4 bighorn sheep, numerous elk, moose, not to mention uncounted small creatures and things we all care about. If we don’t start building these crossings, either overpasses or underpasses, then we’re just going to see more and more of these collisions. There’s a greater risk to our families and wildlife on the roads as we get increased visitors to this place. If we do something about it, we’ll find ourselves living in a community with roads that are safe for families and wildlife which is something that I think that we all want. One way that we can make this happen a little more effectively is by getting wildlife crossing put on a future SPET ballot. I’m here to put a bug in your ear so that you please consider doing that. If we can see it on the ballot then we can get some money behind this awesome initiative that’s already started. Thank you for your time.”
Opposed: Elizabeth Hutchings – HB277 and Housing
- View comment here
Verbal Public Comment
Supportive: Nikki Kaufman – Plastic Bag ban
Opposed: Zahan Billimora – Snow King