Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Silence from Salem

Perhaps someone with inside knowledge can tell me how to get the attention of my two state representatives, Sen. Ginny Burdick and Rep. Mary Nolan.

I have now e-mailed them twice, on Dec. 6 and on Jan. 20, about the need for media literacy legislation to help our children learn how to critically assess media messages.

At least two other states in the union have such legislation.

The second time I wrote, I even pointed out two Oregon bills that had been submitted back in the 2001 session but died there. Their language would give us a leg up on drafting legislation for this session.

All I have received for my efforts is stone silence.

Now that the Democrats are in power (I’m a registered Democrat, by the way), do my elected representatives feel they can turn their backs on their constituents?

Another state representative I have tried to enlist in this effort is Larry Galizio. Larry and I teach media at Portland Community College. We have talked about the need to make young people aware of the impact of media on their lives. Indeed, that is exactly what our PCC courses set out to do.

Larry has been slightly more receptive to my appeals—but not much.

A little political history is in order.

When he was first elected to the House in 2004, Larry narrowly won in his suburban Tigard district, and he joined the powerless Democratic minority. When I approached him about the legislation in early 2005, he said that he wouldn’t be of any help as the Republicans didn’t want him to accomplish anything that would help get him re-elected.

I bought that argument, although it did occur to me that he could have promoted the legislation and modestly given credit to a Republican.

Republicans, I have reason to believe, also want their kids to view media critically and selectively. This is not a partisan issue.

Anyway, last fall, the political landscape shifted. Larry was re-elected handily and became an important part of the majority,

So I figured he would be the perfect go-to legislator.

Silly me.

Credit where credit is due: after my e-mail earlier this month, he got right back to me.

But here’s what he wrote:


Have you contacted your Representative or Senator yet?

As Chair of the Ways & Means Sub (committee) I'm hesitant to introduce legislation that has a fiscal impact and isn't necessarily supported by the Education community. The DOE, OEA, AFT, etc....are all wary of unfunded mandates.

If you are unsuccessful with your Rep. & Senator, contact me ASAP as the deadline for filing fast approaches.


I wrote back that there needn’t be any funds involved. All I want is a volunteer commission on Media Literacy to get things rolling. And I informed him I had contacted Nolan and Burdick and heard not a peep from them. But I vowed I would do try again. I added that I would be happy to lobby for the legislation.

So I wrote Nolan and Burdick for the second time. As far as I can tell they are down there in Salem doing everything but answering their constituents’ mail.

Not that I buy Galizio’s tepid response. It sounds too much like buck-passing.

Meanwhile, all this is almost enough to inspire me to find a legislative candidate whose first pledge would be to answer constituents’ mail.

Former U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill once famously wrote, “All politics is local.”

Now I’m not so sure. To me, right now, “All politics is personal.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rick, contact me about this effort immediately.
Frank Baker

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Dave LaMorte said...

I do a podcast for teachers about teaching the importance of media and media literacy. I'd love to hear more about your class.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

The class is a visual communication class with a heavy emphasis on media literacy and is offered in the spring. Our group, the Northwest Media Literacy Center also gives media literacy presentations in the greater Portland Metro area, mostly to PTAs and student groups. We also offer the occasional "crash course" in media literacy.

4:23 PM  

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