Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Contact your congressman!

So for the last month or two, I've been trying to get a response from my congressman, Randy Neugebauer. Neugebauer is kind of a n00b politician, who unseated our incumbent (Democratic) congressman of seventy-odd years by being the best candidate because the Republicans gerrymandered our district. (You can see the district boundaries in the image above.)

Having finally overcome my bitterness about the redistricting, and expecting to have Neugebauer around for a while, I set about to discover how to help him hear the moderate and liberal voices in his district. My first efforts were through Neugebauer's website, where I entered tons of personal information so that I could send an email that will probably be ignored. I sent the email twice: once on June 16, and once on July 13, and it went like this:

Congressman Neugebauer,

I've been looking at all the Web sites devoted to sending email to members of Congress, and thinking that it must be impossible to read all of the emails and letters you receive from your constituents.

So I'm wondering how you handle this flood of information. Does someone read all the mail and summarize it for you? Or do you actually read each letter? And if there's too much to read, does it just get discarded?

In general, what have you found to be the best source of information for understanding our needs and opinions?

I look forward to your reply.

I'm still looking forward to a reply. I'll send the message again today, but I suspect I will be looking forward to a reply for some time to come.

On the other hand, an interesting thing happened last night, which may have been something like a reply. I was playing with my son, and my wife took a phone call that happened to be some sort of town-hall meeting with Congressman Neugebauer. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take the call, and I couldn't find anything about it on his Web site.

However, Neugebauer's Web site does advertise something he's calling "Coffee with the Congressman", wherein he goes around to cities in the district and ostensibly listens to what people have to say.

"Hooray!" I thought. "Now I can actually show up and ask him my question!"

I perused the list of towns Neugebauer was visiting, and found Abilene at the bottom of the list.

Tuesday, August 29th
4:00 - 5:00 pm
Dyess Air Force Base
Heritage Club
217 5th Street, Bldg. 7402

Immediately, I saw two problems. First, the meeting is from 4 to 5 p.m. Lots of us work until 5 p.m.

Out of Neugebauer's 17 stops, only one stop runs until 5:45 p.m., and none of the stops occur before 8 a.m., which would allow the attendence of citizens with day jobs, and which, I have to say, would be the most logical time for coffee.

But the second big problem I noticed was that the meeting is actually ON Dyess Air Force Base. Having some experience with Air Force bases, I knew that you usually have to have a pass to get on base. Certainly not my definition of "accessible". But maybe I could get a pass, or maybe the Heritage Club is on a low-security section of the base -- outside the fence, maybe -- so I wouldn't need a pass to get in.

I called Dyess. The protocol staff was very helpful, and after telling me that 5th street is indeed behind the fence, they called Neugebauer's office for me. Neugebauer's people explained to them that the visit was for "Air Force Personnel", but that I could go to one of the coffeehouse get-togethers in another city if I wanted.

Gee, thanks.

(I guess this explains why Neugebauer's two "in the district" photos had to be taken at Dyess.)


A. Lo said...

Dude, Larry James commented on my blog. I'm, like, famous.

(Now if the Jesus Videos would only comment on my Myspace, I'd be totally set!)

scoots said...

Re: your post.


Connor said...

I've never seen an actual map of the district; that thing is wild. Do you know of any online before redistricting maps. Just want to see if we've always been crazy in Texas or maybe just avant-garde in our district creating?

Matthew said...

Here's the best comparison I can find:

Before and After

Randy said...

Whats this I hear about you making financial contributions to the Republican Party? What is this world coming to?

Matthew said...


You probably just misunderstood. I was trying to make a contribution of NEGATIVE dollars, but they told me I couldn't do that.

Casey said...

I've recently gotten e-responses from Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer (my Senators), and I believe my Representative, from a petition sent out by one of my e-Action groups (I think it was OxFam). Maybe that's the way to go. Or maybe it's just that I now live in a Blue State.

scoots said...

Yeah, send Hillary a letter in support of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, and see whether she writes back.

It seems to me that most political debates between opposing parties hit a brick wall almost immediately, so I'd expect that only a very few, genuinely open-minded, reps would take the time to interact with constituents that they disagree with.

What irks me about Matt's experience is that Neugebauer *acts* like he wants to listen to people, when in all likelihood he only intends to listen to Republican people.

Randy said...

What are negative dollars? Is that a liberal thing or a Lowe thing? I think I remember your mother dealing in negative dollars at one time but I could be wrong.

Matthew said...


Let me borrow your wallet for the morning, and I'll give you a clarifying demonstration of "negative dollars". ;)

Or you could just check out our national budget. =P

Darius said...

They just can't get enough of "the people's" voices anymore I guess.

Seriously, it's hard for them to slow down enough for that. They're instinctively attuned with "the heartland" and plain folks sittin' round their kitchen tables. This means they're always workin' hard for us, so there's not that much time left for chit chat.