Veronica Fellerath-Lowell and her local Pax Christi USA group in Maryland have committed to participating in the Back from the Brink campaign by getting a local anti-nuclear resolution passed in their county. Here is their experience and progress.

We hope this encourages you to organize a Back from the Brink campaign in your area. Join the 243 who have already registered, and we will send you support and updates. Also, check out this webinar on how to start a Back from the Brink local campaign.

by Veronica Fellerath-Lowell

At our Oct. 17, 2019 meeting, Councilmember Evan Glass said “Yes!” that he would support the Back from the Brink resolution when it comes before the Montgomery County Council (in Maryland). Six members of our local Pax Christi USA group at St. John the Baptist Parish, a member of Pax Christi Metro DC/Baltimore, and a member of Peace Action met with Councilmember Glass and asked for his support. Although we had prepared, most of us had never met with a member of our County Council so there was a little apprehension but we succeeded.

Before I talk about what happens next, I want to go back to all the initial steps.

  • The level of government to approach was identified. In this case it was the Montgomery County Council (Maryland), where we reside.
  • Last January, a Peace Action member contacted a staffer in Councilmember Tom Hucker’s office. This led to Councilmember Hucker presenting a Back from the Brink resolution to the other eight councilmembers. It soon became clear that the County Council would not vote on the resolution unless five councilmembers (a majority) committed to supporting it. 
  • During the next few months, Peace Action and Pax Christi USA members made an outreach to all the other councilmembers attempting to set up an appointment with the councilmember or their staff. 
  • Individuals were asked to call or email their councilmembers.  In some cases, councilmembers were “buttonholed” at a community event and the councilmember agreed to a follow up contact.

What worked best over the past 10 months?

  • Having allies: Peace Action of Montgomery County, Pax Christi (both local groups and Pax Christi Metro DC/Baltimore), and the Society of Friends (Quakers) have worked together in the past and all are supportive of an anti-nuclear initiative.
  • Personal contacts: getting to know staffers; meeting with councilmembers in person.
  • Personal emails: members of our local group sent emails but it was the member who wrote a heartfelt personal email who got a response from the key legislative staffer, which eventually led to our Oct. 17 meeting.
  • Organized telephoning: At one point, the Peace Action leader arranged to have two or three people telephone a specific councilmember each day of one week asking for support for the Back from the Brink resolution.
  • Follow up: When a staffer promised to get back to us, we called again if we did not hear from them in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Perseverance: We kept this on our agenda. We did pause for vacation, etc. but we followed up after. We also kept in touch with our best allies, both staffers and other peace activists. If one strategy didn’t work, we tried another.
  • Register with the Back from the Brink website, By registering  our support as “Pax Christi – St. John the Baptist, Silver Spring, MD,” we encouraged ourselves, as well as others.
  • Keep up-to-date on Back from the Brink victories: We learned that the cities of Baltimore, District of Columbia, and Paris have all passed Back from the Brink resolutions. We told our Councilmember about these resolutions.

Getting to the finish line.

We are still trying to get the Back from the Brink resolution vote put on the calendar. That means re-contacting all those councilmembers who previously promised support and getting the County Council to schedule the vote. SO, STAY TUNED.

To learn more about Pax Christi USA’s Back from the Brink campaign click here

To watch the webinar on “Local Ways to End Nuclear Weapons” click here

To learn about the spirituality that motivates Pax Christi USA’s anti-nuclear, Back from the Brink campaign click here

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