Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Government Officials Are Clueless About Costs

HARBESON: Answers are simply tough to come by

It was a simple question. I only wanted to know the cost of two recent mailings I received from a couple of state government employees who claim to represent me.

Was it an unreasonable request? I don’t know, but I’m only trying to be financially responsible and monitor how my money is spent.

Yet, I did not get an answer to my question. Oh, I received responses; they just didn’t answer the question. Maybe that’s all I can expect from politicians.

One of the mailings was an oversized postcard from State Rep. Paul Robertson informing me about several publications available from the Indiana House of Representatives.

Since I’ve been told it’s important to participate in government, I e-mailed him to inquire about the cost of mailing the postcard. He responded to me very quickly and told me it costs 44 cents to mail a postcard.

I replied explaining more clearly that I wanted to know the entire cost which would include design and production, as well as the number of postcards mailed.

Time passed with no answer, so I sent another request and this time an assistant replied, who said he was waiting on an answer from the publications office. More time passed and I sent another request reminding them of my inquiry.

Later that day, I noticed someone from a state government computer did an Internet search and found my Web site, which led to my blog, which led to this person checking out the blog’s archives. This happened minutes after resending my request.

Oddly enough, I haven’t received any response since. I wonder why. Surely exercising my free speech rights doesn’t make me less of a constituent, does it?

Around the same time, I also received a mailing from my state senator, Jim Lewis. I requested the same information about his mailing. As frustrating as my experience was with Robertson as far as getting an answer to my question, my experience with Lewis was even worse.

I received an e-mail response that was signed by Lewis but was sent from the e-mail address of another government employee named Bridget. It’s hard to say who actually wrote it, but the response did not even come close to answering the question.

If she did have a hand in writing it, I think she has a fine career ahead of her in government service.

The main message of this response was that if I didn’t want to receive these mailings, they could take my name off the list. If anyone is interested in reading this response, just e-mail me.

I’m not sure why my question was so difficult to answer. At the minimum, I’m sure they could find out how many were mailed out and then let me know where I could get further information.

I’m only trying to find out the cost of a product I’m paying for. If I received such a nonanswer when asking a private business a similar question, like the actual interest rate being paid on a loan, the Attorney General would be on their case faster than these people were out on the Internet checking me out.

I guess they don’t really have any incentive to answer this question though. It’s not like they are helping a constituent in a manner that’s going to help them gain the benefit they value most: A vote.

They say they want my participation and involvement as a citizen. But apparently that has nothing to do with digging around and trying to learn how government operates and how they spend money. I obviously misinterpreted the call to action. Silly me.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is a simple person who asks simple questions. This is simply natural since she’s so simple-minded.

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