It was not an easy decision to post an unflattering piece about New York's junior senator. I held back for several months and made the decision based, in part, by mounting frustration about our legislative process. The disconnect between voter and elected official seems to be widening, even though the digital age was supposed to make us closer. The day when one could walk into a congressional representative's office or send a letter and expect an immediate reply is far gone. The digital era, for all its promise of instant gratification, has made it nearly impossible for any elected official to respond personally given the volume of email.
When I wrote to Senator Gillibrand's office earlier this year, I did not expect to hear from her. I was only hoping to voice a concern as a cancer survivor over impending travel rules and restrictions and to open a conversation. I was disappointed in the initial response, to say the least.
So I was completely surprised to recieve a personal note from the senator explaining what happened. Here is the correspondence:
Dear Mr. Schein,
I read your article today about your experience contacting my office regarding the safety of radiation in airport security. I agree that this is an important concern that we need to address, not only for cancer survivors, but for our entire population. I have asked my staff to research other technologies that might be available, and I would like to ask you to provide us with any ideas on this subject that might help us solve this problem.
I apologize for the form letter you received from my office that did not address your issues. We receive between 10,000 and 70,000 pieces of mail in an average week. We do our best to respond appropriately to every single constituent. However, with such large volume, some incorrect letters have slipped out the door.
I encourage constituents to contact my office. I receive weekly reports on the opinions and concerns of all who write to me. This information gives me a good understanding of people's views, and helps guide my legislative work.
Thank you for writing, and I look forward to receiving any ideas that might help us address this important safety issue.
I don't expect a response from Senator Gillibrand every time I write to her office, nor do I expect to agree with her on every issue. However, the above message does give me hope that our legislators are listening to us more than we think.
Senator Gillibrand, thank you for writing.
Jonathan A. Schein is president/CEO of ScheinMedia and publisher of NYInc and NYinc.com.
Follow Jonathan A. Schein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jonathanschein