Participation-in-Democracy Chic: Dade's Emily Franklin shows The Planet how to make one's voice heard in Washington in a properly draped scarf.
Dade Denizens attending U.S. Congressman Tom Graves' County Connection day on Tuesday may not have found what they expected, but none expressed disappointment.
"That was very helpful," said Emily Franklin, emerging from her date with democracy to report to The Dade Planet.
Ms. Franklin and another woman who had arrived at the Dade Administrative Building at the appointed time found that the format of the congressman's outreach program is private, one-on-one conferences rather than the town-hall-style meeting they had expected, and that these sessions are focused less on policy than on practical matters. The staffers on hand from the congressman's office are case workers equipped to guide residents through the bureaucratic tangles of government programs, not to hear their views on health care or the environment.
The environment as it happened was one matter Ms. Franklin had shown up to discuss, and she said the woman in line before her had expressed interest in talking about it, too. "We want clean water and fresh air," said Ms. Franklin. "That's why people live out here."
For that sort of concern, Graves' case workers come equipped with printed forms which they allow constituents to fill out, promising to convey them to the congressman. No one did. Ms. Franklin said she could fill hers out at leisure and fax or email it in later.
Meanwhile, though, she said she was pleased at the opportunity to speak to the caseworker. "I let her know that Dade County is important," she said.
Another constituent waiting in line for her crack at representative democracy was Audrey Clark of TVN/Trenton Telephone. She said she liked to stay in touch with local elected officials in the interest of representing the utility--but also on behalf of Dade itself. "They need to remember we're here," she said.
Dade is small and cut off from the rest of the state, said Ms. Clark, so it is sometimes necessary to remind people. (Almost no discussion of this nature ever transpires without at least one instance of the expression "Independent State of Dade," as well as generous use of the term "short end of the stick." This one was no exception)
But Ms. Clark, too, was pleased at the chance to register concerns and opinions and confident they would find their way to the ears of Dade's voice in the U.S. House. "It's good we can have a fairly direct connection to Washington," she said.
Rep. Graves hadn't been in Dade County personally for a while, she said, but he wasn't from that far away and: "I believe he could find his way back here."
Tracey Bartley, constituent services director for the congressman, told The Planet she knew of no plans Graves had to find his way back here any time soon. He'd visited several times in 2016 but this year was staying busy in the capital and touching base with constituents mainly through the "telephone town halls" that seem increasingly popular with lawmakers.
She stressed the practical nature of her function with Rep. Graves' office: assisting constituents deal with the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, Passport Services and other federal agencies that individuals might need a helping hand navigating.
Ms. Bartley is based in Dalton, where Graves maintains an office, so constituents can deal locally with these federal matters. Her number there is (706) 226-5320 and her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have anything you'd like to take up with Ms. Bartley and her associates? Other County Connection dates this year are April 4, June 6, Sept. 5 and Nov. 14.
And if you do feel moved to express needs, views, objections and other policy matters, please do so by calling the above number or by emailing your congressman at http://tomgraves.house.gov/contact.
Again, here is a link to the names, email addresses and phone numbers of all your local, state and federal elected officials as listed in an earlier Planet article: https://www.dadeplanet.com/single-post/2017/02/02/Participate-In-Democracy-Call-Your-Elected-Reps