Election 2013, v 2 Issue 3: who answers their e-mail?
Let's do a full accounting of the major candidates. Just to remind you, I asked everyone a question about policing. Should we return to the CRB, or, if they've already taken a clear stance on this, how would they ensure accountability, either with the Civilian Review Board or the Office of Coverups (or whatever it's called).
* Bob Fine got back to me promptly on his Facebook page. He also answered my next question promptly (he's not in favor of streetcars; he doesn't think we've got the money.) If you go to his campaign website, he has a Contact page with both a form (which requires a name and e-mail address, but nothing else) and a Gmail address you can send e-mail to, as well as a postal address and a phone number, but I don't actually know whether he answers his e-mail because I didn't have to send him e-mail; I got a quick response to my Facebook comment.
* Jackie Cherryhomes got back to me promptly on her Facebook page. If you go to her campaign website, she has a Contact page with both a form (which makes you prove you're human, but doesn't require any other information other than your name and e-mail address) and an e-mail address and phone number. It also offers directions to her campaign office with an invitation to visit, which is a nice touch.
* Dan Cohen got back to me promptly on his Facebook page. If you go to his website, he has a Contact page which does not have an e-mail address. It has a form, which requires only your name and e-mail address but also requests your phone number and address, as well as offering boxes for volunteering, canvassing, yard signs, and signing up for his mailing list. (On the plus side, nothing here is checked by default.)
I should probably say here that in descending order of preference, here's what I like when I go to contact a candidate:
1. An e-mail address I can send e-mail to that at least PRETENDS that I'm sending it to the candidate.
2. An e-mail address that I can send e-mail to that is clearly to the campaign, rather than the candidate.
3. A form to submit that requests only the bare bones: my name, my e-mail, a subject, a message. (It's OK if all those fields are required.)
4. A form to submit that only requires bare bones (name & e-mail) but requests my phone number, address, etc
5. A form to submit that requires additional information like my zip code, city/state, address, etc.
6. A form to submit that requires my telephone number.
7. No way to contact the candidate at all.
Oh, forms also annoy me if they insist that I pick a topic off a drop-down list and nothing really fits my reason for making contact, but I'm not quite sure where to slot that in. That's less annoying than requiring a phone number but more annoying than a zip code.
I'm guessing that most people have a similar response. I do understand why campaigns want to gather information from potential volunteers, but I definitely have a more positive reaction to the simplest possible form. Of course, none of this helps if you NEVER GET BACK TO ME.
* Cam Winton had not replied to me when I wrote my post a few days ago, but did get back to me August 30th via Facebook comment: "I'm willing to give the existing system a little more time to see how it plays out. When someone whom I respect as much as Don Samuels says the current system is worth letting play out as it gets off the ground, I'm willing to give it more time. That said, I am absolutely committed to ensuring that our police department is worthy of the trust of all citizens -- and if we need to change the oversight process to achieve that goal, I'll change it." (He left an identical response to someone else who linked to the Star Trib article.) This isn't a terrible answer; I'm not convinced that going back to the CRB will actually solve the problem here, which is the panacea other candidates have offered up. (I mean, there is a reason they got rid of it, which was that it wasn't working very well. I'm not actually sure that this is working less well than the old setup, although if someone has data on this I would welcome it.)
Anyway, while waiting for a reply, I also sent him an e-mail. His Contact page is appallingly opaque. There's a set of e-mail addresses, but none of them are to Cam. There's no information about who you'd e-mail for what; you're just supposed to know, I guess. I was really not sure who I ought to be e-mailing with a question about the candidate's stance on something, but I tried the "Press Secretary." No response. Unless they bugged him to respond to his Facebook page. I did get a response on Facebook, so that's something.
* Don Samuels has still not responded to me. As it happens, I know from additional reading (and Cam Winton's reply) that he thinks we ought to keep the new system for a while and try to get it to work better (although I think he said that back in April, before we got to the one-year, 439 cases, no disciplinary actions mark.) I'd still like to know whether he still feels this way, and whether it worries him at all that no police officers have been disciplined under the new office, which he helped to set up. Don's campaign has the "contact" info right on the front page and it's a generic e-mail address (or a phone number). However, I e-mailed him and didn't get a response.
* Betsy Hodges has still not responded to me. I know from her website that she wants to go back to the CRB; I asked how she would ensure that it responded effectively to police misconduct. Since she didn't reply on Facebook, I tried e-mail. Her Contact page is a lot harder to find than is true for most of the other campaigns; it's not up at the top with "Issues" and "Contribute," it's down at the bottom. There's a web form. You have to enter your name, e-mail, and zip code. They want you to choose a category from the following list: Contribution; Volunteering; Event Scheduling; Web Site; General Comments. Finally, there is a pre-checked box saying, "Get updates and news from the campaign."
I swear to GOD I un-checked that box before filling out the form with my question and clicking Submit, and yet a couple days later I got some "campaign news" anyway. I sent a grouchy reply and clicked un-subscribe; the un-subscribe site wanted to know my reason for un-subscribing and I left a grouchy reply there, too. In addition to not getting an answer to my question, I also didn't get any sort of apology for subscribing me to a mailing list I specifically did my best to NOT get subscribed to.
* Mark Andrew has still not responded to me. He actually runs a business at the State Fair so to be fair, he was very busy last week. But he's posted several times on his campaign Facebook page today; he also very promptly replied to someone who complimented his campaign signs. His Contact page is easy to find and offers both several e-mail address options (including one for the campaign, and one for Mark) and a form, but I e-mailed him and have not gotten a response.
So that's where things stand.
To be fair to the non-responders, if you click through and look at their Facebook pages, many attract a certain amount of attention from cranks. Somebody had a long, rambling, incoherent post about a lawsuit. (I can't find it now. Maybe it got deleted?) Cam Winton has someone demanding that he comment on whether he wants children in Minneapolis eating food contaminated by the radiation from Fukushima ("President Obama is not getting accurate information about the Fukushima emergency. How do we get the truth to him, so he can make solving the Fukushima crisis the top priority of the USA?") And Jackie Cherryhomes has several outraged St. Louis Park residents yelling at her about the Southwest rail routing issue; they want a response, but only so that they can yell at her some more.
So maybe I sound like a crank? When I chatted with that journalist at the fair, in retrospect, I should have asked him how responsive Mark Andrew and Betsy Hodges were when real journalists contacted them with questions. Though Minneapolis city politics weren't his beat, so I'm not sure he'd have known.
Election of 2013 Index of Posts