[Richard Tilly, a long-time Fairbanks resident and retired building contractor, wrote the following and has given ASAH permission to publish it.]
In recent months, there have been numerous topics in our local and national news which are a concern for many of us living in the interior of Alaska. Some of those topics under discussion may deal with legislation, immigration, education, taxation, tourism, liquefied natural gas, trucking and mining. After some initial study and review on certain topics, I wrote to our elected representatives to express my concerns and to request a written reply from their offices on their position regarding the specified subject matter within my inquiry.
I’ve e-mailed a letter of questions on specific issues and requested a reply from the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Members; Haney, Rotermund, Cash, Fletcher, Guttenburg, Kelly, Lojewski, O’Neall and Wilson. Four assembly-members were courteous and replied in a reasonable time frame. (Fletcher, Guttenburg, Kelly and O’Neall) Five others failed to reply at all. I then sent a second e-mail to solicit a response to my previous inquiries. Of the five errant members that failed to respond in the second solicitation, just one made the effort to send a reply. (Ms. Haney) Cash, Rotermund, Lojewski and Wilson have yet to respond. I also sent an e-mail to Mayor Ward requesting his position on my concerns. To date, no response from his office.
I decided to send an e-mail letter to our interior delegation members in Juneau and requested a written reply from their offices regarding my concerns. The e-mail went to State Representatives; Prax, Tomaszewski, Stapp, Dibert, Cronk and Carrick, and State Senators; Scott Kawasaki, Click Bishop and Robert Meyers. Of this group of nine elected representatives, only three (Carrick, Meyers and Kawasaki) have offered a reply. I also sent an e-mail letter to the Governor’s representative in Fairbanks, to Jim Matherly. To date, no response from his office.
Constituents such as myself, having raised an issue or voiced a concern, and whether an elected official agrees, or disagrees with that specified concern, it deserves a response. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Responses, whether by e-mail or postal letter, have been the exception and not the rule. As of this writing, out of twenty elected representative’s offices I e-mailed, only eight have offered a reply.
Those of us educated during the era when Civics and Government classes were requirements in our education were taught to believe in the importance of Citizen Participation. This process allows private individuals an opportunity to voice their concerns and offer some citizen influence regarding public decisions. This participation starts by voting and extends through providing citizen input to elected officials. When our elected officials chose to ignore constituents, they derail the process in denying us a voice in potential governmental actions. Those persons elected to office are duty bound to represent the concerns of the general public, to represent us.
If one offers an e-mail or letter, and expresses an opinion, and provides factual background materials regarding a public concern, one would think that an elected official would offer the courtesy of a reply to their constituents. However, my private citizen efforts to participate in the affairs of government and to provide citizen input, appear to have fallen on deaf ears. I can only assume that my e-mail letters were received by the elected representative’s office, who then chose to just hit the delete button. No need to listen to, or respond to, the common citizenry. I can only assume that since they got elected to office, they must think that they are smarter than their constituents.
We sometimes wonder how local, state and the federal government can seem so out of touch with the real world around us. Many decisions made by elected representatives can often affect our daily lives. However, when we attempt to participate in offering ideas, opinions, concerns or solutions, our representatives appear to just ignore us. All of us should have the opportunity to participate in government through our representatives. But this is not what is happening. So, what do we do? At the very least, the non-responsive representatives need to be chastised in the public forum for their lack of decorum. And, secondly, they need to be reminded who really are their bosses. That would be us, the voters.
It is truly unfortunate that our governmental system has numerous dysfunctional aspects. However, the people we elected as our representatives need to pay attention to us. Pretty simple really,…..what we all want is basic life, health, safety. That’s what comes first. So, here is my suggestion and advice to our elected officials. Show some common respect. Listen to your constituents. Take note of our concerns. Remember who your bosses are. Represent us. Respond to written inquiries……. and answer the phone.
Oh, by the way, I asked the elected representatives this question: Please explain to me how the proposed Kinross/Contango Manh Choh ore train hauling plan is in the best interests of the of ~100,000 residents throughout the communities affected by this trucking scheme?”
Somehow, that question has fallen on deaf ears.
Richard S. Tilly