Down the Ballot

Monday, March 21, 2011

Constituency Meeting with Congressman Wu

Today I had the great fortune to start my spring break at a meeting with Congressman David Wu from Oregon's 1st Congressional District of which I am a resident. I signed up for this meeting because the idea seemed sorta cool. How often do you get to sit down with your representative in congress and talk about anything YOU want to talk about? It was an opportunity I had to take and in the end I am glad I did.

Our meeting took place at the Tigard Public Works building.  A very convenient location as I live just over the other side of 99W,  a quick five minute drive from the house. Congressman Wu and his staff score double points for having the meeting so close to home. When I got there I noticed a lot of camera crews and reporters. It looked like Channels 8 and 6 were there in addition to several print media. A friendly reporter from the Oregonian came up to me and asked me why I was there and how I might be contacted if she had questions for me. I told her I was there to talk to Congressman Wu about education related issues.

They had us waiting in a foyer to the public works building. People slowly started making their way to the building for their meeting. I was third on the list.When I entered the conference room I was greeted by Congressman Wu and his field representative. They both took notes while I was talking. We talked about my work with the debate team I coach and about the great speech and debate programs we have in the area. I then broached the subject of textbooks.

Starting in 2003 when I first entered college there was a lot of news coming out of his office about the high price of textbooks and that if we want to ensure young people can afford to attend college we need to do a better job at controlling costs. I basically wanted an update on those efforts; how successful have we been with keeping costs under control since the passage of the Higher Education Affordability Act of 2008. He said he and his staff would prepare a summary of actions taken since the bill was passed and would follow up with me shortly.

I also used this as an opportunity to complain about the direct mail pieces I get from his office. Don't get me wrong they have some great information in them and sometimes even have constituent surveys attached to them. When those come I try my best to fill them out. Yet it would be nice to get a mailer about stuff happening in congress that affects people in my demographic group, folks who are between 18 and 30. I'm not asking for a special mailer every time, but I think one should be tossed in from time to time in the rotation of constituency outreach. 

All in all, I thought these direct face to face meetings were a great idea. It was interesting watching the press at the event hover over everyone and trying to find out what they wanted to talk about. I sorta got the impression that when I told them I was there to talk about education issues they became disinterested. Clearly not the story they wanted to tell. The sad part of all this is that we would have a much better democracy if the media paid this much attention to members of congress all the time, instead of just when something controversial happens.

 Wu and crew get a thumbs up from me today. Next time though, shoot for ten minute meetings I think it will improve things for Congressman Wu and constituents who attend.
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