I found a survey flyer titled "10th District Town Hall by Mail" in today's mail from Congressman Bill Young (R-FL). What the...? Town halls? Young lay low all summer and now he wants to have a town hall? By mail? And I have to pay return first class postage on the oversized flyer?
But when I started to answer the survey, then I became upset enough to call his office and complain. This question did it:
Should Congress raise taxes to pay for health care reform legislation?
There were many similar questions. So I called his office.
I identified myself and said I wanted to comment on the flyer. I told the staff person that I was disappointed that Congressman Young was not going to face his constituents in a live town hall. She said that "all the yelling and screaming" doesn't do any good and this is a better way to hear from everyone, "not just fifty people."
One of the most interesting aspects at this point of the conversation was the tone of voice. I'm a civil person with a quiet voice, yet the staff person immediately was defensive, cut me off, and was almost strident in her defensiveness. My hunch is that I wasn't the first to call with my complaint, and she had gotten edgy.
I replied that town halls have been constructive when managed correctly, but it is his prerogative to avoid hearing from his constituents in person. I also pointed out that a town hall is a two-way venue for communicating, and this town-hall-by-mail scheme constrains communication instead of encourages it.
My other important complaint is that I had to pay oversize first-class postage to send my survey with my important feedback back to his office. Can you imagine? The staff person seemed surprised by this one and said, "Someone could pick it up from you" but quickly changed that to "You can drop it by one of our offices." The flyer didn't mention that return option--nor did it list any physical addresses. Great. They really didn't think this one through.
Having voiced my main complaints, I added that the survey distilled complex issues into over-simplified questions like,
Would you be willing to pay higher fuel and energy prices to reduce production of greenhouse gases?
And biased questions like...
Which do you believe would do more to create jobs...?
o Increased government spending and new government programs.
o Reduce taxes on private businesses (US business tax is 29th highest of the world's 30 largest economies
(Hey 29th out of 30 sounds low to me! Apparently, his office can't phrase their bias correctly.)
And this WTF question:
Should the US continue pursuing a missile defense shield in Europe?
Yeah, well, that's a policy question, but if Young wants to get real and be relevant to his Florida constituents, he should ask for opinions about foreign policy towards Cuba. Any mention of Cuba was absent, of course.
I bet that this town-hall-by-mail survey is not unique to Bill Young, and was coordinated by some RNC-affiliated group. And if Young wanted to know about his constituents opinions, he would have solicited them before the HCR vote, not after the vote took place.
The biggest stinker of all is that this survey smelled like campaign donation literature, the kind that asks red meat questions that are simply intended to get you to open your wallet and write a check. I fully expected to find a campaign disclaimer, but found that it was paid with tax dollars of course. This mail ostensibly was sent to "every resident" of his district (per the flyer). I wonder how cost-effective this mailer was compared to actually holding a town hall or two? And what the return rate will be? I'd be surprised if it reaches 10%...so he's still only going to hear from a minority of his constituents anyway. What a sham.
The supposedly fiscal conservative Young is one of the biggest pork barrel politicians in Congress. Next time, I hope he skips the fake survey and just sends pictures of himself cutting ribbons celebrating his pork barrel largess.