Franklin G. Fry is the Executive Director of the American Heart Association’s Syracuse office. Franklin and his dedicated Board Members are an excellent example of how our advocates truly make a difference in their communities.
hero_image_alt_text===Rita Reicher testifying.
Below is Franklin’s account of how they were able to pass Tobacco 21 (T21) in Onondaga County.
The AHA/ASA was one of the leading community organizations who worked collaboratively for nearly two years to see this law take effect. Tobacco 21 raises the legal sale age of tobacco products to 21, thereby preventing young adults from becoming addicted to deadly tobacco products. The AHA/ASA was able to provide a key strategy to the local community efforts, and that was the ability to advocate.
All told, twelve AHA/ASA Syracuse board members took actions, along with key leadership volunteers, to keep up the pressure on decision-makers while the T21 bill advanced through the process. It was this broad, multi-pronged approach that kept the urgency of the issue in front of representatives and helped ensure that the bill would become law. The consistency of the messaging caused one County Legislature member to joke, “If I vote yes, will you please tell your volunteers to stop calling me?”
The passing of Tobacco 21 would not have been possible without countless calls to county legislators by these community and corporate leaders who serve on the Syracuse Board: Lisa Alford, Fanny Villarreal, Al Marzullo, Duane Wiedor, Mary King, Duane Wiedor, and Angela Franco. But, with such a big ask, additional members stepped up in multiple big ways. Todd Cross and Peggy Thomas made numerous emails to legislators and employers, while AHA/ASA Board President Dr. Satish Krishnamurthy sent a letter-to-editor at the Syracuse Post-Standard and AHA/ASA Board Chair Jim Jerose sent a letter to the County Executive urging her signing the bill into law. And to keep the pressure up in person, Rita Reicher attended a public comment session to express her support in the open forum.
Board Chair Jim Jerose said it best when he said, “it’s clear from our actions that the Greater Syracuse Board of Directors threw their full efforts into T21 passing at the County level. This is the third legislative win over the past four years that the Syracuse board has had a role in. The Syracuse Board understands well how much impact the work in this area can have, and how being active in advocacy has measurable and visible results on local community health. It is just one reason the Syracuse board has been recognized in the Gold Standard Board recognition program for six consecutive years.”
(The image is of Rita Reicher, President and CEO, KS&R and member of the Syracuse AHA/ASA Board, expressing her support for T21 to County Executive Joanie Mahoney as a part of the public comment session.)