I just came from a meeting in Alexandria: "Day At Home in Region IV." This meeting was supposed to be a place for mental health consumers and mental health providers to hear presentations by mental health advocates and Commissioner Jessen from Minnesota's Department of Human Services. The morning went very well as the advocacy groups encouraged the consumers as well as providers to share stories to put a personal face on the issues surrounding mental illness. These same advocates assisted the consumers in putting together their stories and talked to them about how to approach their legislators.
The afternoon was to be a chance for a "Conversation Between Attendees and Legislators." Thirteen legislators were invited. From District 2: Sen. Rod Skoe and Rep. Kent Eken. From District 9: Sen. Keith Langseth, Rep. Paul Marquart and Rep. Morrie Lanning. From District 10: Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, Rep. Bud Nornes and Rep. Mark Murdock. From District 11: Sen. Bill Ingebrigsten, Rep. Torrey Westrom and Rep. Mary Franson. From District 13: Sen. Joe Gimse and Rep. Paul Anderson.
Speaking to bi-partisan cooperation, nine of the above are Republicans and four are Democrats.
Of the 13 elected senators and representatives listed, six did not bother responding at all, despite three e-mails and a phone call to their offices by the presenters of the meeting. These six were Kent Eken, Keith Langseth, Paul Marquart, Gretchen Hoffman, Joe Gimse and Paul Anderson.
Two responded that they had conflicts. These were Bud Nornes and Mark Murdock.
One wanted to come but makes his living as a farmer and was busy with harvest, Rod Skoe.
Four said they were coming but didn't bother to show. They were the esteemed Senator Bill Ingebrigsten and the equally esteemed Representatives Morrie Lanning, Torrey Westrom and Mary Franson.
Again speaking to bi-partisanship, of the six that couldn't be bothered to respond, there was an equal split, three Republicans and three Democrats.
The three who had conflicts, but at least were courteous enough to respond were two Republicans and one Democrat.
Now to the four for whom I hold the least regard (by the way all Republicans): Morrie Lanning, Mary Franson, Torrey Westrom and Bill Ingebrigsten, who said they would come but didn't bother to do so or to call, what were you thinking?
Oh excuse me, obviously you weren't. There was a room full of people at the Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria ready and waiting to help you realize that the decisions you make impact people not just lines in a budget.
As you can see by the above list, bipartisanship was running wild. Democrats and Republicans alike were avoiding their constituents and their responsibilities.
I personally am a provider who has worked in mental health and/or chemical dependency treatment for over 20 years, so I have gotten used to being overlooked and ignored by the Legislature.
The group to whom all 13 of you owe an apology are the consumers who came prepared to share their stories with you, listen to your responses and ask your assistance and compassion. I hope, but I doubt that any of you understand the courage it takes for these folks to share their stories with you. The four of you who said you were coming and didn't should be especially ashamed and not far behind should be the six who didn't bother to respond. The three of you who had conflicts had a choice to make.
One of the things I found most distressing is that Sen. Ingebrigsten and Rep. Franson both live in Alexandria, which by the way, if you missed it, is where the meeting was.
I hope the electorate in each of your districts takes your lack of commitment, your lost sense of responsibility and if you have excuses for not showing, your inability to be organized enough to let the presenters know into consideration in 2012.
Shame on all of you!