A personal message from the governor
Our government structure is an institution by the people, for the people. Direct representation; the elected body carries out the will of the people. Our system is simple, honest and direct. However, most people think no one will ever listen to them.
Our government structure is an institution by the people, for the people. Direct representation; the elected body carries out the will of the people. Our system is simple, honest and direct. However, most people think no one will ever listen to them. Despite the red tape and bureaucracy, I tell you, from personal experience, you can be heard.
I try to stay informed, especially on the issues that really hit home. But, what good is information if you do not do something with it? The decision makers must be kept in check and informed as well. I am sure that Sen. Skogen and Rep. Simpson can attest that I pester them on a regular basis.
Many of the issues that affect us in central Minnesota are actually a trickle down from the state. Cuts in state funding have placed the burden to tax on local government. Just wait a few days and your property tax estimates will come out, if they haven't already. I guarantee every county, city and school will have increased their levy. At the same time the governor, along with the House and Senate, boast they have cut taxes. Do the math -- your taxes are going up.
The politics of this are complex. Republicans and Democrats alike, however, place a fair amount of blame for this structure on the governor. After all, most of this was his idea. So he is in the loop of the officials I contact on a regular basis.
E-mail is my preferred method of communication. It is so easy to whip up an e-mail and send it to St. Paul. And, it feels so good! Don't get me wrong; on the really big issues I pick up the phone, but today, let's talk about e-mail.
I copy Gov. Pawlenty on almost every e-mail I send about state issues. Partly because I want to keep him informed, mostly because it is fun. It's fun because I always get the same answer. Something like, "due to the large amounts of e-mail the governor receives, he is unable to respond ... blah, blah, blah." But the other day, it was different.
I decided to switch my e-mail service. Since I am a dolt with computers, I had to send a blank message to get all of my contacts. The process was simple. Send an e-mail to myself and copy all my contacts. Well, I screwed it up. I sent out an e-mail to everyone but me. I received many befuddled responses telling me there was no content, but one was a completely different story.
I opened the reply from the governor expecting the same old, same old. Come to think of it, I have no idea why I actually opened it. This time though, it was golden. I actually got a response from the governor himself. I even saw my name. I had to read this baby.
As I examined the document, a warm smile came over my face. The governor said he actually read my e-mail and put great importance on the issue. It was cold and vague. No doubt written by a staffer. And yet, the issueless response to my blank e-mail was so personal. They must have looked at my signature that is attached automatically to all outgoing mail. Remember, my signature would include my name, phone numbers and Wadena City Council affiliation.
The "governor" stated how he was very concerned with issues in central Minnesota. The importance of rural issues is a huge focal point, he stated. The "gov" actually went so far as to say that I must understand the difficulties of government. A statement derived from my signature, no doubt. It went on with a bunch of non-specific ramblings to let me know he cared about the issue I wrote about. It was brilliant. Obviously, my e-mail had been earmarked as a randomly selected letter that needed a response. Well, the response was random as well, but remarkably specific. Obviously he had read my e-mail. Well, at least my e-mail signature.
The end was really the kicker. It stated that the governor was glad I had called this "issue" to his attention. He assured me that he is truly concerned about this issue. But remember, there was no message, and certainly no "issue." So alas, it is true: the governor shares my concerns about ... nothing.
(A note from Editor Steve Schulz: The governor's office disputes the facts in the column above, and wished to respond.)
Using Mr. Phillips' email address, which he gave me over the phone, I was able to track the email language that was automatically sent to him, and which he allegedly referenced in his column in the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
The email Mr. Phillips was sent is automatically generated to anyone who writes to the Governor's email address, and is simply intended to acknowledge the receipt of the constituent's message. The email is also a precursor to any response we would send that addresses the particular issue raised by the constituent's email to the Governor.
Unfortunately, the email sent to Mr. Phillips does not match with what Mr. Phillips wrote about in his column. Nor does it address Mr. Phillips "by name."
Here is the text of the email sent to Mr. Phillips: "Thank you for contacting Governor Pawlenty's office with your thoughts. Because the Governor's e-mail gets several hundred e-mail a day this reply is set up to notify you that your important message has been received. Messages are routed to the appropriate person for assistance or compiled by issue area for the Governor's review. Please know that your comments are important to our office and will be thoroughly considered. If you need immediate attention, please call the Governor's office at (651) 296-3391 or 1-800-657-3717. Thank you for taking the time to contact our office. Active and thoughtful citizens like you make Minnesota a great state in which to live."
Since the column written by Mr. Phillips falsely recounts information he claimed to have received from the Governor's Office, we request that you allow me to address this fact to your readers.
Our office works very hard to communicate with constituents who contact us with a particular comment or concern. We want the readers of your newspaper to know that we are conscientious in this regard, which was certainly not the impression they would have received by reading Mr. Phillips' column.
Alex Carey Press Secretary,
Office of Governor Tim Pawlenty