Like many people, I’ve been calling and writing my senator regularly to express my concerns. US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has three offices — Washington, Milwaukee and Oshkosh. I’ve left messages on the phones at all three offices about three times a week for most of the year. Once, I talked to a staff member who said that she would record my views for the senator. Other than that one time, I haven’t ever heard back, despite leaving my phone number and address on the voice message each time I call, and despite my request for the senate staff to inform me about the senator’s views and about upcoming town hall meetings.
So last Tuesday, I happened to be driving past Oshkosh and thought I’d stop by to see if I might be able to talk to one of Senator Johnson’s staff in his office. When I walked in at just before 9 am, the receptionist was busy answering the phone. When she was done with a call, I told her that I would like to talk to one of the staff members about some concerns I had. She told me that I would need to fill out a form with my contact information and summary of my concerns. I did so. Then she came outside of the locked area and said, “Well you’ve got me, so what can I help you with?”
“It looks like you’re very busy with the phones. Is there someone else in the office I can speak with?”
“Nope, you’ve got me. So what is your concern?”
“My concern is with the health care bill that is going to be on the senator’s desk soon. Are you sure I can’t speak with someone else in the office?”
“Our office only deals with veteran’s affairs and social security.”
“Are you sure that there’s not someone else I can talk to?”
“No. We’re done here.”
And with that, she turned and entered the locked door. I was shocked. I looked in and there were three people sitting at desks facing the door. I put my foot in the door and said to them, “I would like to speak to someone in your office about my concerns about the health care bill.” I repeated myself. I got blank stares from everyone.
At that point, I decided that I would start recording the interaction.
After I realize that everyone in the office is hiding in the back office, I recorded a video with the intent of sending it to Senator Johnson’s office to share my disappointment about the way I was being treated by his staff.
At some point my phone stopped recording. I might have accidentally stopped recording and then realized it, and started recording while outside with the officers.
Eventually, my phone ran out of storage, so what you don’t see is the angry police officer with his hand on his gun several minutes after our interaction began, and while I’m clearly not being a threat to anyone. I asked him why his hand was on his gun, and he fumed and said it was standard procedure, and then said, “I’m out of here!” and then stormed off. In fairness to the Oshkosh police, the lead officer was understanding and pleasant, and when I asked him if I was being removed from the senator office, he said, “They don’t want you here, they don’t think they can help you.” He empathized with the frustration I felt about not being heard.
I walked away, still really emotional. I don’t expect Senator Johnson to agree with me. I do expect him to listen when I come to his office to respectfully express my concerns. So I’m willing to do this again until I am heard.
What are your thoughts?