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Saturday, September 20, 2014

To Our Civil Servants: Pardon my "Répondez S'il Vous Plait" Request

Which part of RSVP ("Reply please") don't they understand?
If you've ever written to an elected official and not gotten a response, you're not alone.

Here are my two most recent examples:

CASE #1

Several weeks ago I sent an email to the members of the Harrisonburg City Council and the County Board of Supervisors with a petition regarding local jail expansion that I had posted on my blog. Since it was signed by 125 local citizens, I assumed they would at least take time to read it and make some kind of response.

The petition asks for an additional year, at least, for our community to consider the proposal due by late November by the Richmond-based Mosely Architectural firm regarding plans to add more jail space. This proposal is to then be voted on by City and County representatives before December 31, allowing us a mere month to examine what's in the report.

Since any proposed construction will likely involve millions of taxpayer dollars, many of our local citizens see a need for taking more time for the process. The City of Richmond, for example, is taking five years for a similar study.

All that being said, I got only one reply to my email. One.

A week later I resent the message and link, this time addressing each representative by name, which resulted in my getting at least a brief acknowledgment from half of them. But only half.

I know our elected servants are busy and undoubtedly get a lot of correspondence, and I don't expect an extended essay from every public official I write to. But I do expect at least the courtesy of  something that helps ordinary citizens like me feel like our input isn't just an annoyance.

CASE #2

Just prior to that I had sent a hand-written personal letter along with a copy of one of my blog posts urging parole reforms to each member of the Virginia Parole Board as well as to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring and Commissioner of Public Safety Brian Moran, again expecting at least an acknowledgment from someone on their staff.

The response? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Am I not doing something right here? Or don't our public servants really want input from ordinary taxpayers like you and me?
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