For Your Consideration: The Politics of Communication

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Our newest column – by Janice Taylor – is her personal viewpoint of current issues and the City of SeaTac. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect different opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].

by Janice Taylor

Wednesday night as I relaxed with a post-work cup of tea, steeling myself for house cleaning before the evening walk, my phone rang. I was invited to join the latest “telephone town hall” featuring Representatives Mia Gregerson and Tina Orwall, and Senator Karen Keiser. Part of me screamed, “Run for the vacuum’s soothing drone!” But my sense of civic duty and curiosity won out. For an hour, I was entertained by the politicians pumping their accomplishments, pressing their agendas and doing their best to sound empathetic to everyone.

With these town halls, listeners can press telephone keys (*3 last night) to indicate to a moderator they wish to ask a question. I’d like to think said moderators were simply insuring no threatening ranters received air time, but truthfully they were vetting questions. Heaven forbid a situation where none of speakers had an answer.

Education was a big topic, understandably so considering the state of disarray our districts seem so mired in. Our politicians all swore they were working diligently on the problem, with the main solution being more money needed. They are hoping to overturn the super-majority requirement for passing school bonds, decrying it as unfair and against the real will of the people. Maybe so. I’d like them to require school districts clearly account for every dollar requested from taxpayers, not allowing big chunks of said dollars to disappear into general accounts.

Further discussion focused on homeless students, a number quoted as over 37,000 statewide. (I’ve attached a link to the most recent state report dated Jan 2015. It does not explain how “homeless” is defined or determined.) Again, more money to address the problem was proffered, along with sidebars into creating affordable housing and better-income jobs. Following this thread, more funding for school-provided meals was mentioned. I must agree, hungry and displaced kids typically do not fare well on the learning front.

Of course, teacher pay, retention and classroom size troubled our legislators. For me, the highlight of this thread came from a teacher who flat-out proclaimed money was not the big problem. Lack of student discipline was. How, this teacher asked, could serious students learn when lessons were disrupted by a few who didn’t want to be there? Why would teachers stay when they are disrespected, threatened while being constantly told they must respect the kids? Empathy flowed at this juncture…without directly addressing the concern.

The next big topic was transportation with all speakers back patting over light rail strides. Senator Keiser even encouraged us all to take the rail from Angle Lake or Tukwila to the U. District. (Why?) That after acknowledging the south end gets the short shrift in funding and amenities. I wanted to ask why adequate parking at the Tukwila Station was overlooked. One caller suggested we consolidate all the local/county transportations groups into one regional entity. He understood some jobs would be lost, but money would be saved. (Naïve caller. He forgot the bureaucratic main mission is to perpetuate itself.)

I asked why our state allows credit score as a basis for insurance rates when no correlation between those scores and increased claims has ever been found. Even the Insurance Commissioner’s Office objects. (Actually, insurance companies use more than one’s credit score; they’ve developed their own oftentimes super-secret, proprietary systems that can effect even responsible consumers.) Senator Keiser answered that bills have been introduced over the years, but have gone nowhere.

I won’t fault politicians for using telephone town halls. They are relatively cheap. The hosts get a chance to further their agendas while protesting their deep concern. They do give constituents a warm and fuzzy feeling of inclusion from the comfort of their couches. My problem with this forum is stated on one telephonic conference company’s own web site. “Using a customized Tele-Town Hall® Web Interface, you control which participants ask their questions live on the conference…” Since a moderator vets the questions, there are no surprises or awkward moments for the speakers. It’s pretty much a rigged game show. (I don’t mean to pick on Tele-Town Hall. They are one of several such companies, all designed to help you get the answers you are looking for. Google “telephone town hall” and read some of the results.)

I realize these town hall forums aren’t venues for deep discussion. I wasn’t disappointed. Will I take part in another should the chance arise? Probably, with a glass of Pinot. Will I think callers will make any difference? Probably not. But I am an advocate of any interaction will our policy makers. We citizens need to be heard and should take every opportunity offered.

Homeless Students:

Credit Reports and Insurance:


3 Responses to “For Your Consideration: The Politics of Communication”
  1. Chuck Darielli says:

    Seem’s alot like the town hall meeting last year at Bow Lake school where you had to write out your questions and the mayor read them to the council mia left out everyone I asked

    • Melissa says:

      Hiw about they figure out how to use the money they already have. We’ll be taxed out of our paychecks. Rid our country of the Common core nightmare. I chose to OPT my kids out because it’s a long day of school – everyday to “get prepared” for state testing. It’s all a big bunch of crap. I thought the grand idea was for the tax from the pot shops was supposed to go to funding education? Everytime a kid opens a test booklet that’s another dollar for schools. Yet they can’t figure out how to stop spending money?

      Pam Fernald did do great job organizing the town meetin. Once again the code enforcement group was nowhere to be found. Don’t be so quick to judge the new council, I’m sure they will be very responsive to questions they couldn’t answer that night.

  2. Earl Gipson says:

    I won’t participate in this rigged town hall meeting system. How about we try asking one question to get past the moderator and then ask the one you really want answered when you are live on the air? Of course these are used in the year they are up for re-election. If I want to feel warm and fuzzy I’ll pet the cat.

    What SeaTac Deputy Mayor Fernald put together just recently was a true Town Hall Meeting and ran smoothly by Mayor Siefkes even with the tough questions and they aren’t up for re-election in November either.