December 23, 2009

Christmas Cards – The Legislative Version

In addition to the wonderful cards we’ve received from friends and family near and far, we’ve also received 'holiday greetings' from our elected representatives in Albany and Washington. While they're not really Christmas cards per se, we get them at this time of year, and I like to pretend they're sent in the true holiday spirit.

There’s a similarity between the cards we sent, and the ones we received from Senator David Valesky, Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, and Congressman Dan Maffei: I paid for all of them! That’s right – they are prepared, printed, and mailed at taxpayer expense. Rep. Maffei’s message is the most transparent of them all - it included a fairly large text box indicating it was my taxes that paid for it.

The mailer from Rep. Maffei was a four-fold, full color glossy brochure full of pictures, copies of headlines from the local papers, and the usual “I’m wonderful; let me count the ways” nonsense. Senator Valesky’s mailer, again in color, is a simpler one-page front and back, with only three pictures of the Senator, plus the formal headshot with the American flag in the background. While he has yet to answer my email, he’s happy to tell me all he’s doing for Syracuse. Other than encouraging me to complete my census form when I receive it in March, the rest of the brochure is all about Dave.

The simplest of all is the one from Bill Magnarelli. It’s not glossy, it’s not four-color, and it’s really intended to educate me on services available to me as a constituent, rather than a press release telling me how wonderful he is. It also has a survey, nine questions for me to tell the Assemblyman what’s important. All of the questions are straightforward, and eight of the nine have very simple, non-opinionated choices to select from in response; but one, it’s a doozy. Check it out:

Q: To what extent should New York pursue the collection of sales tax on cigarettes and gasoline sold on Indian reservations?
A. Pursue collection, with the possibility of violent protests and the need to activate the National Guard.
B. Negotiate a settlement with Indian leaders.

Wow – talk about trying to direct a response! Of course, I’m not sure who’s going to be protesting violently – the gas stations owners? Those who purchase the gas and cigarettes? Elected officials in Albany? – but it sort of makes me want to pick option A just to find out.

I took the liberty of rewriting the choices for some of the other questions, so that the response would be more indicative of the sentiment; these were originally yes/no questions.

Q. Should New York legalize same-sex marriage?
A. Yes, all loving couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits of marriage, and we should no longer treat homosexuals as second-class citizens.
B. No, the primary purpose of marriage is for procreation, and therefore homosexuals need not apply. Marriages between non-procreating heterosexuals should be declared null and void, and all marital benefits rescinded.
C. No, New York should remain in the dark ages and continue to discriminate against same-sex partnerships simply on principle.

Q. Should New York State require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus?
A. No, people who order three hamburgers layered with processed cheese and ten strips of bacon shoved into a bun and served with a 48-ounce drink and a pound of French fries couldn’t care less about the calories.
B. No, we should not put the calories on the menu, but we should require them on the TV commercials, since more people watch those than read menus anyway.
C. Yes, we should require the calories for chain restaurants where middle class and poor people tend to eat but not for fancy restaurants where rich people eat, because if you can afford the meal, you can afford the calories.
D. Yes, but only for the items on the dollar menus, because in this economy that’s all anyone can afford.
E. Chain restaurants have menus? Who knew?

Q. Do you support allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores?
A. Yes, this is a great opportunity to help grow the wine industry in New York, which currently contributes between $3 -$6 billion to the economy.
B. No

What do you think? How would you answer these questions?

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