Time for another email policy request for the council members and school board officials. I did this same poll back in 2014, and got everyone on the council to get back to me. In 2014 the board was slow, but except for a notable hold-out, I also got the answers I needed. This year, however, there is a big change for the worse from the board.
Email is now the standard communication channel
If anything has changed since that last test of the email abilities of the politicians, it has become even more standard to use email to contact officials. Old fashioned paper through the mail is unusual enough for contacting representatives that it might be a better way to get your message to stand out from the firehose of emails most people receive. While face to face conversations and phone calls are harder for the politicians to avoid, unless you record them you will have an off the record chat that will be forgotten in a short time.
It is now important to know if your email will be answered, how long it will take, or is a phone call a better way to get in touch. I asked all of our representatives.
First, the good council
Every one of the council members answered my emails. Panzera was a little late because of a vacation, and Houston had a problem with my emails ending up in a spam folder, but all eventually answered, and were happy to provide information on how to contact them about city policy.
Steven Gladman again was the record holder for fast replies, three minutes. He gave me his personal phone number for voice calls (I don’t feel it is right to post that number here, but he will send it to you if you ask). Keeler, Kearns, and Reynolds replied within a day, and said they normally gave answers to email questions within 24 hours.
Panzera said he prefers phone calls for more complex questions. Houston had an issue with a spam box that was eventually solved. She also shared her personal cell phone number, which I will not post, but she was happy to provide it to anyone who tries to contact her.
The board has a problem
When I tested the reliability of the school board in answering my emails back in 2014, I was already well known for being the owner of this blog. I have emailed all of them (except the new members) in the past, and although they might not have been happy to see the questions I asked, all have replied in past years.
This year was a new experience. I sent all of them three emails within a week, just to be sure that it didn’t get lost in their inboxes.
I was expecting Jessie Truett to throw my emails away, unanswered. He is the president of the board, his job is supposed to be the point of contact for all of the members when discussing school policy. And yet he can’t even answer a simple “are you listening” email message. Brannan and Palmisciano also refused to answer.
Eric Bode had a two sentences long reply (which I guess is better than zero). As a test of their willingness to discuss school policy, I send him (and Molly Wassmuth) some questions about the G4G group. Bode seemed to think they were just an anti-tax group (despite their website that shows them to be much different). When presented with proof that the board and Culp had lied to the community about opening up the finance committee, he stuck his fingers in his ears.
Wassmuth had an interesting position on answering policy questions. She claimed that she could not talk about school policy via email, because of some rule or something that she couldn’t point out, but she was sure that the only place she can talk about school policy is in board meetings.
She is wrong, of course. The council and board members are free to discuss any policy matter they want before the vote. And that is their job really, making us aware of their positions and reasoning is what they get paid to do. Wassmuth seemed to think she was a human suggestion box – thank you for your submission, your words will be conveyed to the board meeting (where I don’t have any intention to share them with the board).
Will your emails be sent to the black hole?
Three board members didn’t answer my email at all. That’s really troubling, especially because this is the time that the board will be getting the most emails they have ever in years, because of the intense conflict they will be setting off with their upcoming decision to spend $55 million on the school facilities.
Will everyone who sends them an email opposing the school facility plans find their emails black holed if they are not supportive of the board?
There is a list of 360 community members publicly posted on the G4G website. Will the board use this list as a filter – support the G4G, and you will never get another answer for your emails? I wouldn’t be surprised if the board could be that petty and small.