Two Florida US Senators and My Congressman "MIA" during August Recess
By Carolyn Cormey
Did any of you get a chance to attend a town hall meeting with either of our two US Senators or your District Congressman when they returned to Florida for the five-week August Recess? Florida US Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez AND my Congressman, Bill Young, did not hold any! Not a single face to face town hall, making themselves available to constituent-voters and a state full of seniors who are really scared about cuts to Medicare, government control of health information, rationing AND another massive, government-run expenditure program that puts us into debt for generations to come! Nope, our Senators and my Congressman were just too "busy", too scared, too lazy OR simply did not want to be bothered or inconvenienced by face to face meetings with constituents, where uncomfortable questions might be asked. After all, when elections are over, aren't we constituents just supposed to go away, stay out of their business and allow them to take care of our business as they see fit?
I called the offices of Senator Nelson and Senator Martinez each day for two weeks before the August recess. Each day I asked for the dates, times and places of the town halls they would be holding while they were back in Florida. Each day, each office told me the same thing, "the Senator's schedule is not yet available." The day before the Senators left for August Recess, after I received the same answer again, I told both Senate offices that I would be contacting every single major newspaper in Florida, asking for help to find out when and where my Senators were planning to hold town halls AND if none were really scheduled, to ask the Senators WHY??
This is exactly what I did. Naively, I thought that this question would interest newspapers enough to actually apply continued pressure to our Senators to talk to us voters while back in Florida, to listen to us, to face us! The St. Pete Times and other newspapers made the initial call to the offices of both Senators, put the question to them and got the same answer I got, "the Senator's schedule is not yet available." I don't know what the other newspapers did with this answer but I do know that the St. Pete Times put the question and answer into their blog, not into any sort of a newspaper article. After that, no further follow up by the St. Pete Times or any other of the newspapers, no continued pressure applied to Senators for town hall meetings and no holding our Senators accountable for refusing to meet face to face with their constituents. Sadly, it probably does not even occur to the St. Pete Times (or any of the other newspapers) that most of us still believe that holding our Legislators responsible to the people, is the sort of thing that newspaper reporters are supposed to do!
During the August Recess there were a lot of very busy Senators and Congressmen in both political parties who still found time to hold town halls in their states and districts', meeting face to face with their voter-constituents BUT Senator Nelson was not one of them. During August, Senator Nelson went to China, (intelligence work . . .)! After returning to Florida from China, Senator Nelson had time to participate in Chamber of Commerce Meetings, travel the state, hold press conferences and meet with other private groups BUT apparently still no time to hold even one town hall to meet face to face with voter-constituents. Stick around. In 2012, Senator Nelson will once again "discover" the importance of his constituents and show concern for our fears and opinions. He will be more than willing to meet with us regular folks, face to face. Until then, our opinions will continue to be shuffled off into over-filled voice-mail boxes, too often so full that we cannot even leave our message. If we are lucky enough to get to leave a message, we wonder if it is even listened to or just flushed to provide space for more messages that also may not be listened to. We have little confidence that our emails or letters are even read, let alone influence our Senator's votes in any way.
It is the same with Senator Martinez who also held "0" town halls during the August Recess. Martinez is leaving so what does he care about what we think? But then, he never has seemed to care much about what constituents think after his election was secured. The voice mails in Washington DC were left continually full AND the telephone number for his office, provided to the public, was continually busy - leaving many of us wondering if there was a way that the office phone was just taken off the hook. He never even tried to hide the fact that he did not want our opinions which irked him AND he felt no responsibility to respond to us, let alone let constituent opinions influence his votes in any way. Do you think that he responded in this same way to the Special Interest Groups, his Political Party Leaders AND the Lobbyists he held parties for? Do you think that Governor Charlie Crist will be any different if he wins the election to replace Martinez? Other than just holding press meetings and making speeches, has he made himself available to constituents since he became governor?
My Congressman, Bill Young, held "0" constituent town hall meetings even though a number of us called his office often, asking for one. No answer was ever given one way or another. No reason was ever given for not having one. A town hall was simply never scheduled any time during the month Recess. Perhaps Congressman Young is just getting worn down by all of this. He has been a US Congressman for 38 years, since 1971. I could not find any legislation he sponsored this year, however, he does employ a gifted letter writer who responds to constituent letters and emails, effectively expressing Congressman Young's support in the validity of any of our opinions. There has been talk about his wife and then his son Billy running for his Congressional seat whenever he decides to retire. Legacy worked for Michael Bilirakis's son Gus, why not for Bill Young's wife or son Billy?
The US Senate and Congress has lots of wives and children who have slipped into a spouse's or parent's Legislative Seat. After all, political parties and coalitions in Washington DC seem more like a collection of Fraternities and Sororities where legacy counts and provides a leg-up in fundraising when you are related to a politically/financially connected, retiring incumbent. After all, it is nice to keep a Washington job in the family!
Perhaps it is time that we voters act on the warning, "consumer beware." Next time your newspaper subscription becomes due, ask yourself if there is really "reporting" is just a collection of opinions and a waste of trees. Opinions, you can get for free on the Internet. At the next election remember that your current Senator or Congressman is one of 535 people who are directly responsible for the financial disaster our country is in. Democrat or Republican, if the Senator or Congressman you are planning to vote for has been in office for more than a couple of terms, they are part of the problem, not the solution. Contact your legislators. www.contactingthecongress.org.
(These are my experiences and opinions and do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Clearwater Gazette. Carolyn Cormey)
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