Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hiding From Constituents During Recess

A sign of the times is elected "representatives" hiding from the very people they were elected to represent. 

Voters in Maine mounted a campaign to find their elusive representative Bruce Poliquin during the congressional recess this week. Ridgely Fuller of Belfast wrote:

For the last two months 2nd District voters have been visiting, calling and writing to Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s offices requesting  Town Hall meetings during the congressional recess. Constituents want to share their concerns and understand Bruce Poliquin’s vision for the future of Maine. Despite assurances that we would receive a response last Friday were told that his home recess schedule was “completely booked”.  His office staff in Wash DC informed us that Rep. Poliquin does not hold Town Meetings for “security” reasons. They also won’t release his schedule for “security” reasons.
An automated response to a request for an appearance told us [Poliquin] uses visits in the 2nd  District only to meet with “job creators” and “local leaders”.

Meanwhile I was with another group of constituents who turned up at the Portland Public Library yesterday because of an email they had received stating that Senator Angus King would be on hand to respond to his constituent's concerns.

Instead they were met by part time office staffer Dan Reardon who was bewildered at their misunderstanding. Queried about when King would be holding town hall meetings during the recess, he responded that none were scheduled. But, he would be happy to convey our questions to the senator.

Here's what Eric Poulin of The Soapbox on WMPG, Southern Maine's Community Radio Station wanted to ask:

When it was my turn I asked how the senator reconciled his proclaimed advocacy for environmental health with his years of funding for the Pentagon, the biggest fossil fuel consumer of any organization on the planet. Reardon responded, "That's a good question." 

If King himself had been there I expect that he would have answered my question by citing the need for "security" as a top priority, and then dodged my follow up question, "But senator, isn't our greatest security threat climate chaos and rising sea levels?" These are inconvenient truths that those in power believe are best not aired in public.
"Protest at Arctic Council events in Portland" October 5, 2016

King, who hosted an arctic council in Maine last year to plan how to capitalize on opportunities offered by thawing northern shorelines, would probably rather not have to answer my question.

Meanwhile, just up the road, a different group of constituents was chasing down Maine's other senator, Susan Collins, following a street action opposing the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) outside major investor TD Bank. Activists Starr Gilmartin reported:

We went down the street with Morgana [Warner Evans] to do an impromptu town hall meeting with Collins lunching at restaurant down the hill. She refuses to go to town halls to meet with the community, the community will meet her on the street.

In a related development, the juiciest troll bait on my twitter feed this week was the demand that my rep should meet with his constituents. It seemed like the talking points had already gone out to attack anyone who called out a rep for failing to meet with the public.

(Note that Chellie Pingree is not my representative, and I am unable to find if she is or isn't holding any community meetings during recess as she usually does.) 

A tempest in the rather small teapot that is the state of Maine, but part of an international trend where public agencies stop even pretending to be accountable to the public they serve. A concerned Australian shared this tidbit from a letter she recieved from Greenpeace recently:

we asked a government agency - the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) - for information about a proposal to give $1billion of taxpayers’ money to kick-start the Carmichael coal mine. Denied. Why? It might generate community protests and questions from journalists. 
This behaviour from our government is secretive and undemocratic. They're ready to spend billions of public dollars funding dirty energy and endangering a national treasure - the public has every right to know about it.
This seasoned environment activist further noted:
hitting a brick wall in my efforts to encourage Westpac bank, one of Australia's ' Big Four' not to support Adani.  A submission through their suggestions and feedback page met with a ' we are unable to respond to your email, please ring..' I did and was advised that the online form was the only way to communicate with them, with further suggestion that perhaps there were problems with their website. I tried again later with the same result. 
Despite being told that they do not have a mailing address, I have discovered one, so the next step will be posting a snail mail letter and lodging a copy in person at a branch.  
So there's another tactic -- give people the run around until they give up.
But guess what? We're not giving up.

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