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UPDATE: Edited June 10, see below.

From time to time I like to write my elected officials to ask questions about policy and about the communications that they send to us from time to time. We received a mailer from our local Assemblyperson Jennifer Lunsford at the beginning of May that was a marketing document highlighting what she has done to support COVID relief in our community. I had some questions, so I sent the following letter to her on May 13th:

Dear Assemblymember Lunsford,

I hope you are able to take the time to answer a couple of questions I had regarding the mailer that was sent to Pittsford residents this week.

The Money

I see that you are highlighting how you supported the infusion of state and federal money into our county, towns and school districts. Regarding Pittsford schools, we are probably the wealthiest people in western NY, do you believe that other taxpayers around the state should be increasing how much money is headed to our district while there are others struggling?

There is a flip side to that question of course. In the note you celebrate the millions going to restaurant recovery, paying back rent, etc. Do you happen to have research on whether on net our taxpayers locally are coming out “ahead” when we figure in the state and local income, sales, excise, fees, etc. that we all pay?

Other Than the Money

The mailer (as is common in so much political communication) celebrates the dollars you are able to deliver to your district. That is the art of politics I suppose. However, would you be willing to share with me what things you support that are not about the money that make life better for local families, small businesses, communities, schools? Do we think that dollars will solve all of our problems? To take but one egregious counterexample, in our neighboring Rochester City School District, they just passed a $980 million dollar budget. In a district with only 26,000 students, that amounts to $38,000 per student. Do you believe that if we just found a little more money that would help those families and children obtain a better education, better health, better nutrition, etc.? If not, what is different about what is happening here?

The Mailer Itself

I am interested in finding a way to have our elected officials communicate better and more regularly with citizens. In a world where we mandate all kinds of taxes and regulations, why do we not require all citizens to have emails on file with your office and other offices, and we receive official communications that way? That would be cheaper, more efficient, and obviously helpful in times of emergency.

In any case, I’d like to know how much money was spent by your office to produce and mail these “Investing in Pittsford’s Recovery” mailers? Is there a way for us taxpayers to find out? And do you think that sending those mailers actually helps improve the lives of our citizenry as compared to other things we might be doing? Isn’t that mailer just a political document that you can use to improve your chances of reelection in the future that your opponents do not have the opportunity to use?

I appreciate you taking the time to address these questions,

Thank you,

Now, I never even got confirmation that the email was received. I followed up two weeks after that with a request for a conversation, and that was ignored. And then I followed up again two weeks later, and again the request was ignored. I finally got a response this morning, and here is what it says:

Dear Neighbor:

Thank you for contacting me. As your representative in the New York State Assembly, I take your concerns and opinions seriously. Our office values your input and factors it into every policy decision we make.

Due to the high volume of e-mails we receive each day, we may be unable to respond to you immediately. However, your message has been received, noted in our records and every effort will be made to respond to you, as appropriate, in a timely manner.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact our district office at 585-223-9130.

Thank you again for reaching out.

Sincerely,

Jen Lunsford
135 Assembly District
268 Fairport Village Landing
Fairport, NY 14450

That is of course 26 days after my first letter. I do not expect an answer. Will update as anything changes.

UPDATE June 10: Assembly person responded. She seemed to agree with the need for better communication and transparency by the Assembly, did not want to directly answer the questions about money and its impact on outcomes, but ultimately did answer my question about the mailers. The one she sent out this time was just shy of $4,600. My understanding is that they get three mailers each year, so we can guess total budget per assembly person around $15,000.

One Response to “The New Maths: In Which 26 Days is “A Timely Manner””

  1. Jen Lunsford says:

    Hello! After speaking with you I asked my staff to look into why you did not receive an automated response when you first emailed us. We usually have a very fast turn around time when responding to constituents, even during this busy time. Upon further examination, it appears we never received an email from you until that June 8th correspondence, which is how you ended up with an auto-response on that day. Can you double check the email address of your first two emails, because I noticed in the thread you sent that, for some reason, the to/from and date information of the prior emails was missing. I just want to make sure we don’t have a crack in our system that is letting constituent correspondence get lost. Thanks!

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