Like millions of other Americans, I have begun making calls, comments, and letters to my Representatives part of my regular routine. In mid-January, I began looking for a local town hall meeting to attend, only to find that my representatives very rarely hold them, and seem - right now - completely opposed to scheduling one. Of course, this is unacceptable, so now part of my quest is to get North Carolina representatives meeting with their constituents in person.
No stranger to being given the run-around by gatekeepers, I've honed in on Senator Richard Burr; I've been calling his office and taking names (literally), and when I make my calls to express an opinion about a nomination or policy, I also often do a little digging into how to make appointments and schedule meetings with him.
In the course of my calls, I've spoken with a number of staffers who have been courteous and as helpful as they are allowed to be; however, when they connect me with higher-ups (like Taylor, in the press department), the shut-down begins.
When I first talked with Taylor last week, I asked if she'd be willing to briefly comment about the increase in activity on Mr. Burr's Facebook page, and the number of requests for a town hall meeting. She said she could only comment via email when she saw the questions. I assured her I'd send them immediately, and asked if I could expect a brief response in a few business days. Taylor's answer was that she couldn't tell me how long it would take to answer if she hadn't seen the questions. So I asked for an average response time for emails from her office, again, she refused to answer the question and implored me to email them. So I did. Here's the letter I sent to Taylor last week:
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2017 4:38 PM
Subject: ATTN: TAYLOR re: Some questions about activity on Senator Burr's Facebook
Thank you for chatting with me on the phone. As I mentioned, I’ve been looking into the activity by constituents on Senator Burr’s Facebook page, and I intend to write an article showcasing the increase in activity as well as some of the comments, with anecdotal data (ie., acquired from FB in the form of likes, shares, comments, etc.) about the issues that seem most important to his constituency.
The goal of Never Silent is to get away from worrying about party lines, and getting into policies and their effects, so I think it is very important to be able to include Senator Burr’s perspective on the questions below. I hope you’ll take the time to respond briefly soon.
- Many North Carolina constituents have asked when they will be able to meet with Senator Burr in a public town hall. Can you provide a time, date, and location for the next event where Senator Burr’s constituents can voice their opinions in person?
- If there is not one currently planned, when can constituents expect the announcement for one?
- Many constituents have commented on Facebook that their calls are not getting through, and that Senator Burr is not addressing their comments on Facebook either. Can you comment on this?
- Finally, more than one constituent noted that staffers were arguing with their opinions rather than logging them. One constituent commented the following:
“Today your staff told me that public education and higher education is the bane of our society...apparently it corrupts our minds as it exposes us to evolution, science, and encourages us to think for ourselves. I really had called to express my concerns about the Supreme Court nominee but then the conversation expanded to include your support of all the other Trump nominees. The staffers I spoke to were all young women and shamefully - when they heard that I wanted to express my concerns about these nominees - they all told me that as a woman I should not be questioning the Senators as patriarchy is supported by the bible. They also stated that the Senators were voting for Gorsch as this country was founded by white straight male Christians and Gorsch would help return the country to their control. I was told that the train had left the station, and either I get on board or be left behind and fired from my job as was the AG. I was horrified as all stated that the AG's role was to defend the President's orders whether unethical or even illegal. They all appeared to have a script though their answers varied somewhat especially when I asked direct questions regarding their beliefs about equality. One repeated the "script" about this country belonging to white straight men, and the other two stated that per the bible - women were subservient to men and their primary role was to birth large families and create armies of "arrows"...and that only women who had attended public school and pursued higher education questioned this God given role (and that thankfully Devos would dismantle public education and universities). I asked them to put this in writing (via email to me) but they refused. And when I then told them, that I would share the conversations with the public (based on the notes I took) they hung up on me. This only showed me what a poor role model you are.”
Can you comment on this? There seems to be no response from Senator Burr or staff on the Facebook thread. Many constituents found this an alarming state of affairs, and are concerned that Senator Burr’s staffers are allowing their personal and religious opinions seep into their work for the secular U.S. government, is this true? How will you address this issue if so?
That’s all for my questions, but if I may make a suggestion: I think people would feel better if a social media savvy staffer took some time to address what the constituents are saying. The activity on Senator Burr’s Facebook page has increased dramatically over the last month, clearly his constituents are reaching out for him.
Once again, thank you very much for your time. I’m looking forward to sharing Senator Burr’s side of this story.
Executive Editor, Never Silent
The People are Purple
Today, I called Taylor to follow up with her. I asked if she received my email, and her response was "Thank you for the follow-up." When I asked again if she would be able to address my four questions, she informed me that "Mr. Burr's office only responds to large media networks."
Fair-ish, I suppose.
So I let Taylor know, again, that I am also a constituent of Mr. Burr's, and that I have become aware of thousands of constituent requests for a Town Hall meeting that are being ignored. I reminded her that it is the law in North Carolina for representatives to be transparent in the announcement of official, public meetings, and finally asked: "So are you refusing to answer my question about when there will be a town hall, and if there is not one scheduled now, when the people of North Carolina can expect one to be arranged?"
Taylor's response: "I don't think I can answer that question in a way that will satisfy you."
Yes, Taylor, you can: With a time, date, and location of Senator Burr's upcoming Town Hall meeting with his constituents in North Carolina.