Public Comment #2
Assigned: Thursday October 15, 2020
Due: Thursday October 29, 2020
This assignment is the second opportunity that you will have to engage directly with the policymaking process in the real world. In your first assignment, you wrote directly to a Congressional
Representative about climate change. This is exercising your right as a citizen to reach out to
your elected government officials to let them know what is important to you.
For this assignment, you will be practicing a different strategy to influence policy—reaching out
to the media. The media (newspapers, magazines, local and cable news outlets, etc.) are hugely
influential in drawing attention to an issue by both members of the public as well as policy- and
decision-makers. This can be an effective way to put pressure on the government to act on an
For this assignment, you will draft a short Op-Ed. An “Op-Ed” is short for “Opposite the
Editorial Page,” and refers to an informative essay published by a newspaper or magazine
written by an author not affiliated with the publication itself. It is used to express the author’s
unique opinion regarding an important topic. It is also an opportunity for a member of the public
to express their opinion or bring awareness to an issue. You will write the assignment and not
only submit it to Blackboard, but also submit it to a local news outlet for publication
What will you be writing about? As you all know, we have an election coming up on November
3. In addition to the important presidential election, there are also several California state ballot
initiatives up for a vote. For this assignment, you will select any one item that you will be voting
on (ballot initiative or seat election) and writing about implications of the outcome for
Step 1: Find your local ballot
Depending where you are registered to vote, your ballot may look different. You can use this
website (https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup) to find your ballot online by entering in
the address where you are currently registered to vote (note you do not need to enter your email,
just your address), and select the November 3, 2020 upcoming election. This does not have to be
in California—if you are registered in another state, you should write about the issues up for
election that you will be voting on in that state. If you are not registered to vote in the United
States, or you are not sure where you are registered, enter your current address and use that
Step 2: Review the candidates and ballot issues
Review the state ballot measures, presidential candidates, congressional candidates, state senate
candidates, state assembly candidates, county candidates, and any other items up for vote. Select
one of these to write about in your Op-Ed. Remember, you will ultimately be writing about the
impact of the vote results on environmental health, so if you pick a ballot measure you’ll want to
find one that you can ultimately tie to the topic of environmental health.
Step 3: Research your candidate or ballot issue
If you have selected a candidate race (like the presidential election), do some research at least
two of the candidates and their positions on environmental health. Think about what the
implications are for key environmental health issues (women’s health, climate change, children’s
health, immigrant health, etc.) if either candidate is elected. If you have selected a ballot
measure, research what a “yes” versus “no” vote means on this ballot measure, and identify a
link to how the results of this vote might impact environmental health for the public.
Step 4: Write your Op-Ed
You will be writing an Op-Ed on the election or ballot measure that you have selected,
highlighting what the implications are for environmental health depending on the outcome of the
election. Three sample Op-Eds (on unrelated topics) are attached for you to review and get a
flavor for how to structure your assignment. Make sure in your Op-Ed you address the following
a. What is the election or ballot measure that you have selected? Identify and briefly
describe the seat (as an example, US House California District 13) or the ballot
measure (as an example, California Prop 22, App-Based Drivers as Contractors
and Labor Policies Initiative) that is up for election. Your explanation should be
succinct but detailed enough so that someone is able to understand the issue that
is up for a vote.
b. What are the implications of the outcome of this vote on environmental health?
What data supports this?
c. What is your recommendation for how people should vote?
Here is some additional guidance on writing the Op-Ed:
a. Your title should be no more than 60 characters in length, including spaces
b. The title should ideally be both informational and intriguing (you want your
audience to click on the title and read more). This is not a research paper, so feel
free to be creative and make your title catchy.
c. The op-ed should be kept to one page, single spaced, 12 point font with 1-inch
margins. Include at least one scientific fact and citation (use both in-text
references and either citations in footnotes or a reference list on a separate page).
d. Use informal, non-technical language, as if you were talking to a non-scientist
friend or relative. Make your paper fun and interesting to read.
e. Avoid acronyms and scientific jargon
f. Tell a story from your perspective—write in the first person by saying “I” or
“we.” Avoid passive voice, i.e., “The problem was identified to be caused by…”
and instead use active voice, i.e., “The scientists found that the problem was
g. Remember, your Op-Ed could be published in a newspaper, so don’t mention that
you are doing this as an assignment for a class.
When you are done writing your Op-Ed, you will do the following for submission:
1. Submit your Op-Ed for publication consideration. You may submit to one of the
following local news outlets, or you may want to select another newspaper depending on
the location that you used to select your ballot:
a. San Francisco Chronicle (see instructions here:
https://www.sfchronicle.com/submit-your-opinion/, use the drop-down menu to
b. San Francisco Examiner (see submission link here:
https://www.sfexaminer.com/contact-us/, use the drop-down menu to select
c. Mercury News (email your Op-Ed to firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Take a screenshot of the confirmation of your submission and upload this to
Blackboard along with your Op-Ed in Blackboard by 10/29. You can upload them
together as one file, or upload them separately to the same upload link.
Please note that these letters will be publically available (especially if yours gets published!), so
write your letter under the assumption that this could be made available to anyone in the public.
Therefore, do not put anything in your public comment that you would not be comfortable
having seen by anyone in the world (i.e., your friends, family, or future employers).
Here are a few resources to help you write your paper
1) An Op-Ed sample (https://cal.streetsblog.org/2020/10/05/op-ed-californias-prop-22-isnot-only-bad-for-drivers-its-bad-for-traffic-and-the-environment/) about California Prop
22 and its potential impact on environmental health. You are welcome to also write about
Prop 22, but if you do you must use different facts/statistics from the ones used in this
Op-Ed and come up with at least one new argument justifying the link between Prop 22
and environmental health.
2) Two other Op-Ed samples (on topics different from this assignment) are attached in
Blackboard to give you a feel for what an Op-Ed should look like. Note that this is not a
research or policy paper, so it should not be as formal and written for the everyday person
reader. Feel free to make it funny, witty, and personable! This should be an article that is
both fun to read yet informative. The two examples provided in Blackboard do a nice job
at this and can be used as a model to write your own Op-Ed.
Public Comment Grading Rubric
MEDoes not Meet
Completeness Includes complete
response to the three
sections outlined in
Step 4 directions
response to all but
one section outlined
in Step 4 directions
response to all but
outlined in Step 4
responses to the
outlined in Step 4
document, 12 point
font, responses to
<1 page long
to each section
<1 page long
Responses to each
Quality Writing, calculations,
references are free of
issues, or other
references exhibit 1-
2 minor errors.
Clarity All points are readily
understood and all
assumptions are well
Writing is readily
may be missing
Major issues with
Severe issues with
writing, leading to
assignment that is
by the reader.
Thoughtfulness Original and creative
insights are clearly
effort to synthesize
of interpreting or
No evidence of
Criteria A B C D
Completeness EE/ME+ EE/ME+ EE/ME+ MEFormatting EE/ME+ EE/ME+ EE/ME+ MEQuality EE/ME+ EE/ME+ ME- ME-/DNME
Clarity EE/ME+ ME- ME-/DNME ME-/DNME
Thoughtfulness EE/ME+ ME- ME-/DNME ME-/DNME