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Editorial: Washington Today

By Leocthasme

It was not too long ago, during the Clinton Years to be exact, that I visited Washington, DC on several occasions. A few times I was sent by my Union and on another occasion by the National Council of Senior Citizens, the forerunner of the Alliance for Retired Americans, ARA.

Just this past month, I visited there again, this time to join the ARA in lobbying for Social Security and Medicare issues affecting seniors. And, I must say it has changed beyond belief.

Well, the city has not changed much, a few new buildings, the new WWII Memorial, a few new Hotels and such, for the most part just the normal physical changes that any metropolis might go through in keeping up with the times. But, there is no need to talk about new buildings and new sites that are leisure and travel inducements let's talk about new attitudes.

The attitudes we need to talk about here are the attitudes of our elected officials. We, you and I, regardless of our political leanings, put them in office. We, you and I, through our taxes pay their salaries. We, you and I, because we put them where they are and because we pay their salaries, should presume that we have the right to meet with them and discuss what is essential to our district, our state, and our nation. Up until my recent visit this past month, it was that way. In my previous visits, there was never a problem in meeting with a representative or a senator. In fact if I was acquainted with one, even though not my particular representative, I was able to walk into his/her office and at least exchange pleasantries. But, not this time.

So what has changed? Did 9/11 have something to do with it? No, not at all, I made appointments with my Texas Senators and my representative long before my planned trip. And, I was sent a scheduled time that they would meet with me, before my planned trip began so that my appointments were set, so I thought.

Not only did I have appointment times, but our two Texas Senators, had set times to meet with not only me but 9 other Texans who had journeyed to Washington for the same purpose. We were all ARA members who wished to discuss the issues that could affect us and the entire group was to meet at the same time. However, upon our on-time arrival, these dastardly bastions of boorish behavior were nowhere to be found.

Oh yes, I found Ms Hutchison; she was out in the hall giving a press conference on our time, with the media, cameras and all. I was chased away from there as being some sort of not-wanted-on-the-scene bystander. What was that all about? It was a day or two after KATRINA, but Texas was not yet affected by that storm. However the parade had started, Bush flew over Louisiana, the Mayor of New Orleans was up in arms, the Governor of LA was mouthing off on TV, and everybody who was somebody was blaming somebody or everybody. And, the parade was going by, so all politicians regardless of where they are from, jumped to get to the head of it so as to be noticed as having concern of some sort, even if it does not concern their home state (just tune in on CSPAN, either channel, and listen to these mindless morons mouth off).

Well, so much for Kay Bailey, where in the Capitol Hill was that other guy who had made an appointment with us? We never found him and no one even gave an excuse for his absence. So, we talked with some underling who took us into the hall, so as not to contaminate the office I suppose, and when I became somewhat verbal, as is my habit whether good or bad, I was told by this underling to keep my voice low so as not to disturb the hallway traffic. I then gave my (always opinionated) opinion and impolitely left his sight. So much for meeting with elected representatives.

Well, that was not all of them, I did have an appointment with my district representative, Mike Conaway, and I will say that my appointment was set several weeks before I was to arrive in Washington. In due respect, I was called at my home the day before I left by his office and told that he had been called away by a death in the family and did I still want to keep my appointment. I opted to meet with a staff member and was in fact cordially received. So, as far as Mr. Conaway is concerned, I feel he and his staff treated me with courtesy. They did let me know that he was called away before I made a trip to his office. I will keep this in mind if and when he comes up for reelection. Courtesy goes a long way. It should be noted that Mr. Conaway is new to congress, having just been elected this past November.

And now, back to attitudes. I feel that these elected officials owe their time and their courtesies to their constituents, not to the matter of the moment. If there is something that comes up, it usually does not come about at the spur of the moment. So there should be plenty of time to rearrange time schedules. If I am asked by an elected official to make an appointment, that's fine. However I expect that person to keep his or her end of the bargain. After all, my time is just as valuable. And, if we as constituents need to talk over our concerns then I think it is the duty of those who are elected to hear our concerns. To treat us as though we are so much bother to be avoided is in my opinion a put down. If the media and the corporate lobbyists are so much more important to these boorish boobs, then I think it is time for the homefolks to put them back where they belong: AT HOME!

Leo C. Helmer
September 2005  

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