Tips for advocating before the Board of Supervisors

Suggestions for addressing the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors most effectively

The following suggestions are from Joe Christy, President of the Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council.  He has a lot of experience advocating for various causes with the Board.

From my past experience with the Supes, I know that there are two important things to prepare for:

1) Mounting as broad a letter-writing​ campaign as possible. Form letters are easy to recognize, and only count for adding a signature to the basic letter. The form-letter aspect, unless extremely well executed, tends to detract from the impact of the actual content of the letter.

The Supes meet Tuesdays at 10am​. ​The agenda is typically posted late in the day on the prior Thursday, and the agenda packets are assembled by end of business on the prior Friday.  Correspondence is accepted right up until the meeting, ​late correspondence ​is printed out sometime early the morning of the meeting​ and distributed at the meeting​, but practically speaking, there's no chance that any of the Supervisors​ or their analysts​ are​ going to read ​any of it. Only the most motivated supervisors are going to read the entire Friday agenda packet.

2) Delivering a clear and concise 3 minute oral comment at the Supes' meeting. I cannot stress clear and concise too much.  Be sure to introduce yourself, and if speaking as a representative of an organization, give your title, if any, and affiliation.  Never try and make more than 3 points. The best oral comments make just 1 or 2 points. Complex arguments and extensive description of the problem, as opposed to the solution, belong in written correspondence. If you have willing and articulate acolytes, farm out some of your talking points to them.  Use the microphone on the podium. Stand up straight, smile, and make eye contact with all the Supes.  There is a set of lights on the podium that goes green when you start talking, yellow when there's 1 minute left, and red when your time is up. A buzzer will go off when your time is up, and great effort will be made to shut you up if you run over.

    Address for our supervisor:


Bruce McPherson, Supervisor, Fifth District

Santa Cruz County

701 Ocean Street, Room 500

Santa Cruz, CA 95060