Saturday, October 23, 2010

An unpublished letter to the editor of the Livonia Observer

Ms. Smith,

Thank you for taking the time to look into the whereabouts of Thaddeus McCotter the night of the League of Women Voters candidate forum. While your article in the Sunday edition of your paper was factually accurate, I feel it lacked a historical perspective I think I could add. I don't know if you are familiar with my history in this matter, but I believe I have spent more time, effort and money trying to open communications between McCotter and his constituency than anyone in the district. I was the 2008 Green Party candidate for his house seat, I held petition drives urging McCotter to hold town hall meetings, and I've had a long running video series on You Tube called "McCotter & Me" which documents his disaffection for those living in his district. I would very much appreciate it if you would print the following essay in the opinion/editorial section of your paper.

"McCotter's story doesn't add up"

On Thursday, September 9th the League of Women Voters held a forum for candidates in state and federal races, but Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was conspicuously absent. Republican Committee chairman, Carl Berry said the congressman couldn't attend because he had to meet with the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). Berry also said McCotter couldn't attend the Faith & Freedom Conference (FFC) on Saturday because he had to attend a 9/11 memorial ceremony sponsored by the American Legion in Livonia. If the LWV candidate forum had occurred in a vacuum, this explanation would make perfect sense. Unfortunately, there is the matter of the 3 months leading up to forum and McCotter's long history of wanting to control his message by keeping the public at arms length. Thus, I put it to you, that the exact opposite of Berry's claim is true. That is to say, McCotter had to meet with the MEMA because he couldn't answer questions at the LWV candidate forum; he had to attend an American Legion memorial because he couldn't meet with Jack Abramoff's associate, Ralph Reed on September 11th after his opponent, Natalie Mosher exposed his plans.

Berry accused the LWV of "...publiciz(ing) a forum without confirmation from a campaign", but the McCotter campaign did not confirm his absence until less than 7 hours before the event took place. This trick worked once in 2008 when the LWV canceled the forum altogether because McCotter failed to confirm. That same year, he also missed the State Farm candidate forum and the Clements Circle Civic Association candidate forum, which he avoided by getting on a plane and leaving town hours before the event. The LWV graciously credits McCotter with attending forums in the past, but the last time that happened was 2006 when he took the stage with Tony Trupiano. That one didn't go well for young master Thad and he hasn't been seen since.

Berry said McCotter was invited to the FFC but had to decline in order to come back to the district for 9/11 memorial services. However the FFC website described McCotter as a "confirmed speaker" as early as August 27th. It's a shame he couldn't have extended the same courtesy to the LWV who requested his presence two months earlier. Berry also said on the Tuesday after the LWV forum that McCotter couldn't attend because he had to meet with MEMA. When I called McCotter's scheduler the following Thursday, he had nothing on the congressman's schedule for that day. Why does the chairman of McCotter's campaign committee know more about the congressman's legislative activities than his scheduler? Did McCotter decide over lunch that meeting with MEMA couldn't wait until Monday? I'm not saying Berry is lying (McCotter likely did meet with MEMA and the American Legion), but the narrative put forth by his committee lacks the internal logic needed to create the suspension of disbelief critical to any story involving time travel.

Masquerades such as this would not be necessary if McCotter sat high in the saddle and said "Here is what I believe. Vote for me if you agree." Sadly, he does not. Instead, he says "We (in congress) do not represent Washington to our districts, we represent our districts to Washington." McCotter represents his district by refusing to meet with constituents in person and answering questions with signed form letters. He chastises Democrats for not listening to angry constituents while refusing requests to hold his own town hall meetings, opting instead for telephone town halls where he decides who participates and his staff chooses which questions he will answer.

Whether you agree with McCotter's politics is not at question here. Regardless if you are a radical, liberal, moderate, conservative or reactionary, we can all agree that for a democracy to function, a representative must occasionally make himself available to the people he serves and the LWV forum has laid bare for all in the 11th district to see Thaddeus McCotter does not.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our story so far...

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to write this post. I wanted to keep it simple, but there were always too many details that got in the way of a proper explanation. Then I had an exchange on Facebook and it all came out. Here then is the crux of that exchange regarding a video I posted on You Tube:

Gerry: "...You communicate with someone and tell them what your concerns are and they respond back with a reply. That's not a town hall that is personal communications. Try it sometime."

Me: "Gerry, I don't know you and it's becoming evident from your posts that you know little about me. Please allow me to bring you up to speed.

"This is not a video of my first contact with McCotter's office nor even the first phone call. This all began in 2007 when I sent an email and got a response that was curt and dismissive but more importantly, it did not answer my question. I got the same exact message on a paper letter, so I went into his office to ask when he would be available to speak with me. What followed was a year long odyssey involving hundreds of phone calls to district directors, communications directors and a parade of schedulers that resulted in a phone conversation with McCotter's chief of staff, Andrew Anuzis. He patiently listened to my questions and promised me answers in writing which still have not arrived.

"After a month without a response, I decided to take the next step and run against him as the Green Party candidate, hoping I would finally get a chance to meet him in a forum or debate. Instead, he was a no show for the LWV, State Farm and CCCA candidate forums (forae? fora? I didn't take Latin). I thought this was unusual when it happened, but it turns out to be standard operating procedure. That became clear when the health care reform debate began.

"Which brings us to the video in question. It begins with McCotter saying that representatives would go back to their districts to get an earful from constituents. This, you will remember, came after Democrats held town hall meetings in which people from outside of the district came in to disrupt the event and shout profanities. I began an effort to have McCotter hold a town hall meeting to discuss health care reform, not to scream profanities but to discuss the chart you see behind him that he seems so eager to show everyone. I circulated a petition and went up the chain of command until I spoke with his latest scheduler, Melissa Garcia who told me they do not accept requests for town hall meetings from constituents, choosing instead to do them over the phone where they select who will participate and his staff screens the questions before he answers them. I asked to be called. I was not. My best friend, who doesn't even live in the district, was called. During that town hall, McCotter, told participants that the health care reform would cause cuts to medicare. I don't receive medicare, My best friend does. This was not a town hall. This was an infomercial.

"If you are still reading this, Gerry or if you just skipped to the bottom, you should know this. I seek out people in my district who disagree with me to have a civil and reasonable discussion with them about important issues. It's a hobby of mine. I don't get paid to do this, but McCotter does. It's his job. He is well paid to do just this and he's not doing it."

And that, in a nutshell, is our story so far.