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Words of wisdom

Friday, Dec 7, 2012

* Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) writes a folksy, conversational weekly column for his local newspapers and always sends me a copy. His latest is partly about the crush of upcoming legislation in the January lame duck session…

I receive hundreds of emails, and as I have often shared, Sally receives them first. She gets rid of the junk mail and prints what I should see on hard copy, then I write my response and she sends it on.

Arguably, thousands have come in this past week about these issues. The easy ones to answer are the ones you’ve received from various groups and told to send on to your legislators.

Come on folks, use a little imagination. Almost a thousand identically worded emails are easy to respond to. I write one response, Sally sends it on. Tell me what you really think. I need your honest thoughts, not what some agency wants you to forward to your legislators.

Sending a form letter to a legislator is a good way to be ignored. It just doesn’t work except in the aggregate, I suppose. And even then, it probably doesn’t work all that well.

And I’d say the same thing about comments here. Elevate yourselves, people. This ain’t no newspaper website.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - reformer - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:07 am:

    Organization-generated e-mails and letters provide legislators with a barometer about which side of an issue is better organized in the district. It also reflects voter intensity on an issue.

    For example, if a legislator gets 100 messages from constituents to vote against a gun control bill, but just 5 messages to vote in favor, that indicates which side is best organized and most intense.

  2. - CircularFiringSquad - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:14 am:

    We always like the lobbying form letters faxed from some government-owned fax machine…there have been times when they get refaxed to the sending device. Usually causes a flap at that end.
    LOcal folks say GmanJim responds better when you staple your receipts from the trailer company to your “requests”

  3. - dupage dan - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:14 am:

    I agree with reformer in that the impression of numbers on an issue has impact. As a former community organizer, trained at the NTIC, I can say that is a tactic that is used in neighborhood campaigns. I couldn’t produce stats on how well it works, tho. A good organizer also pays attention to how well a tactic works. Using the same tactics repeatedly causes a numbing effect on the recipient - as described by Rep Sacia. Balance and variety are important.

  4. - Not It - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    I wish your site had a “like” button because I would “like” the last sentence of your post.

  5. - cassandra - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:47 am:

    Well, it’s certainly getting easier for individual citizens to voice their concerns. Dictate your e-mail into your smartphone while you are on the go. No more looking for an envelope, a stamp, or even sitting down at your laptop. No excuses.

    I think if I were a state retiree I’d be dictating an e-mail about legislators’ plans to mess with the cola. Inflation is a killer, and with the economy improving per today’s job figures, it’s going to start going up soon.

  6. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 9:48 am:

    ===I wish your site had a “like” button===

    You can post it and then essentially like it on Facebook by clicking that little FB icon next to my name.

  7. - soccermom - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:08 am:

    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Elevate me.
    Inga: Now? Right here?
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Yes, yes, raise the platform.
    Inga: Oh. Ze platform. Oh, zat, yah, yah… yes.

  8. - lessons learned - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    My experience is that these letters do help. If someone has gotten 5-10 emails on a topic, and then you go to lobby them, they are more receptive to see the face of this issue and more curious about the details. Sometimes they will say, “oh yeah, I’ve gotten emails about this. What is the issue again?

  9. - More Courage - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:23 am:

    The snide comment about Sacia and what local folks say was not only baseless, it was wrong. I’m pretty sure I know what the locals say considering my family and I are among them.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:41 am:

    - soccermom -….

    Put the Candle Back!

    - soccermom - decided to post such quotes, when Rich is trying to instruct. This is a “teaching moment”, and you decided to go “Young Frankenstein.”

    I couldn’t be prouder, (wiping a lone tear of joy…) well done … well … done.

    What was this about again?

  11. - Ghost of John Brown - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    The “best” comments that I got when I was involved with another Illinois blog was from spammers who wrote something like “This post was really informative and you bring up a lot of good points” and then there is a link to their commercial product. Really?? Do the idiot spammers think a lot of those comments get through and do people actually respond to those or have I assumed that the general public is smarter than they really are.

    Those were always “auto-delete” for me.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 10:50 am:

    To the post, I have yet to hear any elected offical say,

    “I got 4 form lettes that really caught my attention.”

    Volume works, occasionally, but Form Letters are just recycled paper with jibberish on them.

    My favorites are the ones photocopied, then with “white out” …”facts of the writer” are inserted…. when you get less than 6 …

    Or how about the 8 year-olds, “handrwritten” letters about the 12-point plan to underscore the taxation of property zoned B-4 instead of R-4 and the implications of such zoning, socio-economically on the town, county state and nation… verbatim of a proposed amendment to an amendment, of course.

    “Signed Sally Snowflake, Age 8, Newtown Grade School.”

    Those work too.

  13. - I don't want to live in Teabagistan - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    I will spend this weekend on Youtube, learnin myself some commenting skillz

  14. - lessons learned - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 11:08 am:

    Individually written letters are obviously better. But honestly, I don’t think they influence legislators all that much either. Ive never heard a legislator say, “I got a thoughtful, well-written letter and changed my mind.”

    They listen to lobbyists, colleagues, leaders and their own ideology more than their mail. Unless it comes in numbers. And if it comes in numbers, then they are more receptive to listening. Even if they were form letters.

  15. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 11:25 am:


    Abby Normal.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 11:29 am:

    Please, I beg you! For safety’s sake, don’t humiliate him!

  17. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 11:52 am:

    Words of Wisdom - easy, one word… Plastics.

  18. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 1:01 pm:

    When you have 177 people, you’re obviously going to see differences in how they react to form letters/e-mails. From my own experience, most feel the way Rep. Sacia does. Many don’t even respond, often times instructing their staff to pitch them. It is certainly more meaningful if you have a self-written letter from a constituent.

    What’s even worse are pass-through calls where an advocacy group calls up targeted individuals with a fiery message urging them to push a button or option so that they can directly express their opinions to legislators. These usually hit on senior citizens or zealots who are scared or driven to being forwarded to the legislators without having a real knowledge of the issues. I’ve heard stories of seniors telling the solons’ administrative assistants that they don’t know why they’re calling - they were just told to call by some group. I’ve heard that many assistants don’t even track these calls.

    Bottom line, office visits, personal phone calls and personal letters/e-mails have more of a chance to get a legislator’s consideration. Even better is to engage is all of these activities.

  19. - Just a citizen - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 1:32 pm:

    I think the letters should be treated as an online petition and as such should be considered seriously by the recipient.

  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 1:34 pm:

    ===should be treated as an online petition and as such should be considered seriously===

    I don’t think that the vast majority of online petitions should be treated seriously by anybody.

  21. - Anonymous - Friday, Dec 7, 12 @ 2:42 pm:

    Form letters deserve form answers.

    The way to get responsive legislators who usually agree with your views is to learn candidates’ views and positions during their primary and general campaigns, then to work in those campaigns and get them elected.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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