We thank Mr. John Terry for permission to post his October 5, 2012 letter to the Editor of The Inter-Mountain (Elkins, WV).
Ironically, and you’ll see why when you read the letter, the Editor has not yet published Mr. Terry’s important commentary, which we are pleased to post for your review and comment.
Mr. Terry’s letter begins:
Editor: In this age of tweets, texting and email, I believe the best way to communicate an idea is a good old fashioned letter. I also believe that, capable as they might be, Senators Manchin and Rockefeller and Congresswoman Capito won’t know what we expect them to do if they don’t hear our wishes. I rarely use email to contact politicians because the on-line forms they use require me to characterize my message by assigning it to one of the categories they’ve chosen, like defense or health care. I’ve always had the feeling that picking a category encourages the staff member going through the week’s emails to look only at your category and add you as a check mark on a “pro or con” list with no consideration of the fine points or justification of your concern.
I don’t write to the President because I doubt that my message would ever get through, but as a homeowner in Randolph County, I contact our West Virginia Senators and Representative several times a year with the expectation that my suggestions and observations will be heard. I know that those representing us at the federal level can’t possibly be aware of everything that’s going on at home so I tell them what I think they ought to hear.
I’ve received my share of responses from Manchin, Rockefeller and Capito that were off topic or where they thanked me for whatever and told me that they were glad I wrote. All this tells me is that they got my letter, but not that they read it. This week I received a response with Senator Manchin’s facsimile signature that angers me and brings up a serious question. My letter, which included data, studies and pictures, told Senator Manchin that I opposed the wind production tax credit, a government subsidy that has been on and off for the past twenty years and is set to expire on December 31st of this year. My letter was clear that this is a poor use of the Country’s limited tax resources and that I was firmly against the Wind PTC renewal. Senator Manchin’s reply was, “Thank you for contacting me to share your support for the Renewable Energy Tax Production Credit.” He then went on to detail his support for subsidies for every form of energy and the various bills he’s supported or cosponsored. How could he get this so wrong?
Every politician on the national scene has to maintain several offices in their state as well as one in Washington. Each of these offices has to have staff members to answer the phones, return messages, schedule meetings and advise the Senators and Representatives on what’s going on. I believe that this support staff is not without social, environmental and political bias. It makes me question who is in charge and who the information gatekeepers are.
My experience is not unique. It should make us aware that a vote for a certain politician is not a vote for that man or woman, but a vote for the honesty and integrity of the staff and advisers he or she surrounds themselves with and how willing they are to consider the wishes of their constituents.
Mr. Terry’s letter ends.