BREAKING THE NIMBY LAW OF ATTRACTION

 

NIMBY law of attraction motivates citizens living within the community-at-large to mobilize against a corporation for the purposes of delaying, disrupting and defeating high-profile, multi-million dollar land use projects.

This phenomena is infamously known as NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard), where vocal opposition successfully attack multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations to protect the status quo from new sustainable development.

NIMBY uprisings are no stranger to the real estate and land development community.  Unfortunately, it happens more often than many realize, and the staggering evidence is hiding in plain sight:

Every year, thousands of projects are ensnared in the web of community conflict over controversial projects that are characterized in the media as David vs. Goliath.

Every year, thousands of part-time elected officials side with angry residents, to vote against legal and sustainable land use projects – especially during election years.

Every year, our economy loses billions of dollars in investment capital, economic growth and jobs to angry residents who defeat sustainable projects with no budget, no lawyers, no office space, and no PR consultants (this is changing, however, due to DC interest groups).

3 Signs of NIMBY Law of Attraction

One, if not all three of these signs, indicates a NIMBY Law of Attraction has latched onto your project:

Public hearings that turn into Jerry Springer episodes is the first sign.  Too often, applicants become deer in the headlights when they’re unexpectedly ambushed by local residents resulting in project delays and negative publicity that emboldens the opposition, while antagonizing the elected body.

Patrick Slevin

Sign number two is when the mayor or public official asks the applicant to host a town hall meeting to educate the public.  This request usually stems from mounting pressure elected officials are feeling from a few dozen calls and emails, or when city hall is overrun by angry neighbors. This is an indication that the elected body is lacking social confidence in corporate developers and their application.  When this occurs, the opposition has secured the political and strategic high grounds, resulting in 9 out of 10 town hall meetings turning into media spectacles.

The third sign that your project is experiencing a NIMBY Law of Attraction is when elected officials privately tell you that they support the project, but they’re unable to support it publicly.  At least not until the political environment is much more conducive to risking their political capital.  In most cases, the political environment only gets worse until the project is withdrawn or voted down.

Breaking the NIMBY Law of Attraction

Breaking the NIMBY Law of Attraction begins with understanding that corporate developers who ignore, overlook or underestimate the community-at-large, the same community that grants the license to operate, is essentially increasing the risk of NIMBY opposition.

Put another way, every community has a NIMBY sleeper cell potential of residents and activists who are ready to mobilize opposition to any project. When a corporate applicant fails to implement a stakeholder assessment and community engagement element to their strategy, they’re essentially forfeiting the high ground, emboldening lone individuals (or DC-centric special interests) to mobilize, frame and drive the impending crisis.

No one wants to see their sustainable project put in the crosshairs of a NIMBY campaign.  Granted, not every project is opposed, but in reality, the odds are stacked against corporations attempting to secure land use and zoning changes for high profile, high stakes projects.

The NIMBY Law of Attraction is an equal opportunity risk factor.  Meaning, industries and projects spanning infill, mixed use, energy, residential, retail, industrial and commercial suffer the same consequences when the community-at-large is ignored or worst yet, alienated.

Corporate leaders and their representatives at the local level, should understand that the risks of ignoring the community-at-large is equivalent to rolling the dice on millions of dollars of investments, shareholder value and future market share.

By the time a sustainable project sees the signs of NIMBY Law Attraction, then it has become a costly crisis that has put the applicant on the defensive.

THE GOOD NEWS

The good news is that 80 percent of those projects that were delayed, disrupted or defeated by angry opponents could have had a more successful outcome had corporate developers taken proactive community outreach steps to reduce the risks of attracting community opposition.

The bottom line is corporate developers and their representatives have more control over the fate of their sustainable projects.  It’s a matter of choosing low risk and low investment of stakeholder engagement, or rolling the dice, hoping the NIMBY Law of Attraction will somehow not target your project.

The latter has been the popular business model, which has always played into the hands of those who are at the ready to attack city hall with their smartphones and Facebook pages.

The irony is corporate developers ask communities to accept change, but they’re not willing to change their business models in order to locate and educate the very same community influencers who are asked to support their multi-million dollar projects.

Those moments of decisions are when the NIMBY Law of Attraction is determined.

Will you generate the next NIMBY Law of Attraction for your project?

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Patrick Slevin is one of few national speakers and consultants considered a “NIMBY Expert”.  Mr. Slevin is a former Florida mayor, who for three decades has spoken, consulted, and written about mitigating the risks associated with status quo opposition.  Mr. Slevin’s entertaining presentations empower corporate executives on “how to” win political and community support for controversial projects. 

Learn more about Patrick and SL7 Consulting at www.PatrickSlevin.com.  If you’re interested in Patrick as your speaker or consultant, please email him for more information and to set up a call:  P.SL7@patrickslevin.com

5 Enduring PR Lessons I Learned as a Mayor

Patrick Slevin: Youngest GOP in the Nation in 1996
Patrick Slevin: Youngest GOP in the Nation in 1996

I learned public relations the hard way the day the city clerk informed me that I would become the youngest mayor in the history of Safety Harbor, Florida, at 27. Within a few hours of learning the news, I was mobbed by reporters from the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune and television news crews from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

I wasn’t prepared to encounter this level of media interest. And it showed!!! I did everything wrong from a PR standpoint. I answered with yes and no responses, I repeated negatives, and I naively trusted the reporters.

I would become the youngest GOP mayor in the nation, I was youngest mayor in Safety Harbor’s history and I was first time candidate who was unopposed.

One of the TV news stories that evening headlined, “Safety Harbor, a little fishing town on the shores of Tampa Bay, where the fishing is great, but not today. Today, the city has a newly elected mayor…27 year old first time, unopposed candidate Patrick Slevin.”

KNOW Tampa Bay
KNOW Tampa Bay

So what was wrong with the news story? First, Safety Harbor is an upscale bedroom community located on the bay not known for any commercial fishing. Second, the reporter lived in Safety Harbor and wasn’t thrilled about having a Generation X-GOP mayor. Third, I simply allowed myself be portrayed as a schmuck before millions of Floridians and worst yet, I failed my first attempt to be an effective spokesman on behalf of my nearly 20,000 new constituents.

GOP

After the weekend news cycle died off, I evaluated my poor performance as a public official and politician. I quickly determined I must learn how to master public relations before I was sworn into office 60 days later. So, I devoured the latest PR books, talked to other public officials, studied political communications and met with local beat reporters.

I quickly learned and mastered these five enduring lessons (Sketch Artists, Thick Skin, All PR is Local, Humanize the Story and Leadership) as a young mayor, which served me well during my 3 years in office and the next 15 years of my public relations career:

SKETCH ARTISTS: Reporters are not painters, they’re sketch artists. They require fast, bite size narratives and facts. The nature of their work and the pressures of deadlines prevents reporters from obtaining deep knowledge about your issue. The earlier you provide your messaging and supporting facts, which are often times presented in press releases, statements, media kits, press conferences and briefings, the better the odds of framing the story to your benefit. The easier you can make their job, the better relationships you will forge, while ensuring accuracy in reporting.

AddressVows

Edittorial Impress

THICK SKIN: If you’re not being criticized, then you’re not doing your job. As a public official, I learned that media thrives on controversy. Conflict sells papers. As an active mayor with a vision and purpose, I attracted more than my fair share of criticism in the media. When political opponents and editorial writers attack, you must have a thick skin and unwavering resolve in pursuing your goals.

TangleEditorial Grandstanding

ALL PR IS LOCAL: In every community there still exists the “Proverbial Barbershop”, where thought leaders influence the behavior of voters, consumers and constituents. Local markets and community intersections are the infrastructure building any national platform delivering integrated communications focused on recruiting, influencing and mobilizing stakeholders. More people listen to their community leaders who influence where they eat, what they buy and who they should vote for on Election Day, than any news story in the New York Times or USA Today.

American Legion Magazine
American Legion Magazine
Mayor's Task Force
Mayor’s Task Force

HUMANIZE THE STORY: Emotion trumps logic when influencing the opinions, behavior and attitudes of audiences. For corporations, associations, and special interest groups it’s not what you say, but who says it for you. My campaign as mayor to sue and close two establishments in Safety Harbor did not have the support of the city commission. Unfortunately, my go-getter attitude created the appearance of being unilateral, when in fact I was representing hundreds of affected constituents.

This is where I learned the value and impact of surrogates and putting a face on an issue to help educate key stakeholders. After setting up a neighborhood watch and partnering with the sheriff’s office, the effort to close the establishments was championed by Safety Harbor residents. Several would receive Keys to the City.

When the time came to vote, city hall was overflowing into the street with angry and concerned residents. Residents, mostly African American women, shared their personal stories of drug dealers, crime and concerns for their children. What started out as a 4-1 vote against suing, turned into 5-0 vote for lawsuits to protect the citizens of Safety Harbor.

CrimeDrugs

Deputies

Nightclub 1Nightclub 2

LEADERSHIP: Leadership must have vision, strategy, fortitude and inspiration. Public relations affirms leadership by defining the big picture, justifying risk, and most importantly, motivating stakeholders. As mayor, it became apparent that the biggest threat to my city’s progress and future prosperity was status quo attitudes. Any C-Suite executive would agree that protecting the status quo is not an effective strategy, but the equivalent to organizational and market share atrophy or suicide.

Therefore, a leader must be an effective change agent and communicator in allaying the fears of change. A leader must be able to articulate and address the self-interests of his/her employees, partners, shareholders, constituents, voters and media.

Call of DutySquabbleTax Cut

It was a honor to represent the people of Safety Harbor. When I left office in 1999, I decided to pursue a career in public relations. Everyone has a story to tell. My experience as mayor so many years ago, gives my clients, to this day, a unique perspective underwriting successful programs, campaigns and initiatives across Florida and across the nation. I have the privilege of telling their stories to the audiences that impact their bottom-line priorities.

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SL7 Communications is led by Patrick Slevin, whose meteoric rise in public relations started when he was elected the youngest GOP mayor in the nation in 1996. Six months after his election, Patrick was appointed spokesman and surrogate for presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bob Dole. Since 1996, Patrick has educated opinion leaders and engaged stakeholders as a Florida mayor, Fortune 500 corporate manager, national trade association director, international agency executive, corporate trainer and public speaker.

Patrick can be reached for a confidential inquiry at 850.597.0423 or email pslevin68@gmail.com.

SL7 Interview’s Rick Watson, Chief Lobbyist for Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida

Rick Watson
Rick Watson

Rick Watson is legislative counsel for ABC. ABC is the voice of commercial construction. It’s a trade association of merit-shop, commercial and industrial contractors. ABC represents every aspect of commercial construction from general contractors to subcontractors and affiliated industries. It’s SL7 Communications’ pleasure to include Rick in our SL7 Interview series. Rick discusses ABC’s role in coalitions, how his members are faring in today’s economy and the key legislative issues heading into 2015.

SLEVIN: WHAT IS ABC, WHO ARE YOUR MEMBERS AND WHAT’S THE MISSION OF YOUR ASSOCIATION?

WATSON: ABC is a state association of 5 chapters with over 2000 corporate members employing more than 100,000 individuals in Florida. ABC counts among its members every aspect of commercial construction from general contractors to subcontractors to suppliers and affiliated groups such as construction attorneys, insurance agents and accountants.

Grassroots lobbying is an integral part of any legislative advocacy effort. ABC members stay in contact with decision makers. The grassroots effort is definitely year round.

SLEVIN: WHAT ARE THE LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY ISSUES THAT ABC HAS BEEN PROMOTING AND FIGHTING AGAINST OVER THE YEARS?

WATSON: ABC supports free enterprise, no tax increases and reasonable regulation. ABC is also a trainer for skilled construction workers and has the largest apprenticeship training programs in Florida. ABC is always involved in workers compensation, construction training and building code issues.

 

SLEVIN: IT SEEMS THAT WHENEVER A BUSINESS TRADE FORGES A COALITION ON TORT REFORM, TAX REFORMS, WORKERS’ COMP, WAGES ETC., ABC IS ONE OF THE FIRST ASSOCIATIONS CALLED UPON TO JOIN. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

WATSON: ABC is an active coalition member because of an extensive grassroots effort. Through the years, ABC has developed a key contact program that pairs ABC members with legislators. In addition to 9 lobbyists in Tallahassee, ABC has over 15,000 contacts in its distribution list which can be mobilized on priority issues.

SLEVIN: ARE YOUR MEMBERS SEEING THE UPTICKS IN THE ECONOMY? IF SO, WHERE DO YOU SEE IN THE STATE THE BEST IMPROVEMENTS AND WHERE ARE DO SEE IT STILL LAGGING?

WATSON: Yes, the economy is picking up slightly. Some areas of the state, such as Southeast Florida, are seeing increased commercial construction. Heavily populated urban counties are seeing upticks in the economy, medium sized counties not as much.

SLEVIN: GRASSROOTS LOBBYING (MOBILIZING THOUGHT LEADERS TO ADVOCATE FROM THE HOME DISTRICTS) IS A STAPLE IN ANY EFFECTIVE LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN. HOW VALUABLE IS GRASSROOTS LOBBYING IN ACHIEVING YOUR LEGISLATIVE GOALS? AND DOES GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY STOP WHEN SESSION ENDS?

WATSON: Grassroots lobbying is an integral part of any legislative advocacy effort. ABC members meet with legislators prior to the session to discuss ABC priority issues and follows up with the legislators after the Session to debrief them. As agency issues arise during the year, ABC members stay in contact with decision makers. The grassroots effort is definitely year round.

SLEVIN: HOW DID YOU GET INTO LOBBYING AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS?

WATSON: I practiced law in Panama City and got involved in some political campaigns. I came over to Tallahassee to work for Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter during the Session of 1983, ostensibly for two months. I found I really enjoyed lobbying. Commissioner Gunter asked me to head up his legislative program and I served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the insurance department for a couple of years. Since 1986, I have been a contract lobbyist primarily representing non-union construction interests.

SLEVIN: YOU’RE CO-CHAIR OF A TALLAHASSEE GROUP CALLED THE FLORIDA CENTER-RIGHT COALITION, WHICH I’VE BEEN A MEMBER FOR YEARS. IT MEETS MORE THAN ONCE A MONTH AND WEEKLY DURING SESSION. IT’S A GREAT FORUM OF EXCHANGE OF IDEAS AND GAINING KEY POLITICAL INSIGHTS AMONG LIKEMINDED THOUGHT LEADERS. HOW DID YOU COME TO THE DECISION TO FORM THE COALITION AND HOW DOES IT HELP CONTRIBUTE TO PASSING QUALITY PUBLIC POLICY IN FLORIDA?

WATSON: The Florida Center Right Coalition is modeled after the Wednesday Meeting chaired by Grover Norquist, who is president of Americans for Tax Reform. The Wednesday meeting in DC began in 1993 as a group fighting Hilary Care. The purpose of the group in DC is to bring all members of the Center/Right together, to brief each other on issues each member is pursuing. The FL Center/Right group has been meeting for 11 years. There are similar meetings in 49 states and 15 foreign countries. The Florida Center/Right group brings together business and social conservatives, think tanks and political activists to share ideas and strategy.

SLEVIN:
WHAT ARE THE LEGISLATIVE ISSUES FOR ABC GOING INTO 2015?
WATSON: ABC has five issues next session: 1) A Pubic Private Partnership bill which adopts the recommendations of the PPP Task Force. 2) Decrease the Statute of Repose to seven years which is the national average for construction tort claims. 3) Promote the Fair Competition Bill which prohibits local geographic price preferences when state funds are used. 4) Promote and expand construction worker training. 5) Streamline and simplify Building Permits and Building code.

Thank you Rick for sharing your time with my readers.

You can follow Rick on Twitter @RWatsn

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Patrick Slevin heads SL7 Communications, an integrated public relations consulting firm. Over the last two-decades, Patrick has successfully engaged stakeholders as a Florida mayor, Fortune 500 corporate manager, national association regional director and international agency executive. His unique and diversified experience in political, corporate, government and agency communications offers clients a greater degree of efficacy in strategic counsel and campaign performance. He has developed and executed strategies, corporate campaigns and grassroots operations advancing the bottom line interests of clients in markets across the United States.

Patrick can be reached for a confidential inquiry at 850.597.0423 or email pslevin68@gmail.com.