Constituents to Remember, and Forget

Some of the constituents I've worked with are quite memorable. Not all of them in a positive way.

There were some battles that perhaps I shouldn't have fought. But, for some reason, I often fail to just shut up when others think I should. Especially if I know I'm right. People from the Midwest have a reputation of being outspoken, and perhaps my Iowa upbringing shows at times.

That was the case when the Catholic Diocese wanted the legislature to order an HMO to do business with Mercy Hospital. I maintained that if HMO coverage was mandated, it wouldn't be an HMO and that we shouldn't be interfering with a private business already regulated by the state. I had a few other arguments as well, something about separation of church and state, which only got the Bishop angry enough to attack me in the Catholic Observer.

Sorry, Bishop, but I'd do it again. And I'll put you on my list of memorable people.

Other memorable people?

The guy who claimed that there wouldn't be any homeless people in Westfield except for the fact that I got funding for the homeless shelter. He also blamed the homeless for the trash blowing around Wal-Mart. Go figure.

I told him that he didn't have to like the shelter, the clients, or me, but to please consider what things would be like without any options for people who have so few options and who are probably mentally incompetent in addition to having alcohol or drug addictions.

I get blamed for a lot of things, including all of the refugees in Westfield. Look, I didn't bring them here. They're here under Federal regulations and under the auspices of Lutheran Social Services. It's just my job to be sure they get an education, medical care, and other services the Feds and state mandate.

Others? There was a frequent caller who threatened me, claiming to know where I lived, and was, according to a contact in law enforcement, quite dangerous. (Haven't these people ever heard of caller id?)

The gentleman who wanted a House of Representatives citation for his dead parents. At the very least, he'd settle for a letter or commendation to them.

There's the man who contacts me frequently, usually by phone, sometimes in writing. I still can't figure out why he contacts me. He claims to have had a falling out with officials in Westfield, and seems to be hiding out either in Connecticut or around Worcester.

He is one of our formerly homeless residents and a street poet. He claims that fishmonger Carl Cline told him that half of 23 is 12, so he wrote a poem about that and dedicated it to then-Governor Paul Cellucci.

When I was first elected a frequent-caller repeatedly demanded that I do something that I had no possible way of doing and wouldn't have done even if I could have. I was patient through many calls. But he finally pushed me over the edge and I said, no, probably yelled, "Don't call me again."

"Why not?" he asked.

And I, totally unlady-like, and certainly unrepresentative-like, explained "Because you p*** me off." It worked. (For that, I apologize.)

I also admit to telling another frequent caller that he was "obnoxious." He was. No matter what I tried to do, it wasn't enough for this former felon. He's since taken to contacting local papers and the Senator. Thank goodness.

Most frustrating? Peter, who didn't appreciate my aircraft tax bill and tried to thwart this legislation every step of the way, going so far as to attack me in The Boston Globe. His basic beef, I believe, was the cutting of trees around an airport. But, as so many do, they obfuscate the real issue with irrelevancy.

The religious right. Bible Thumping Bill accused me of supporting "the evil of contraception" when I voted in favor of insurance coverage for contraceptives for women who want it. He claimed I was not a Christian, voted only the party line, and had some hidden agenda that involved destroying this country's moral integrity.

Dear Bill, I replied, in part, that I do NOT always vote the party line and certainly have no agenda. Furthermore, I said, I am a Christian, but my church (Episcopal) has not taken an anti-birth control stance. So your religion may not be mine and my district is made up of many faiths. Furthermore, I told him, I do not see contraception as "evil."

"I am sure that I will never make the pro-life people happy," I continued. "And I will never be able to respect your warped sense of evil. But the people of my district have elected me four times despite my pro-choice stance."

Was I too hard on the guy?

One more memorable constituent, the one who objected to a phrase in one of my columns here. I said, somewhere in the 750 or so words, that we can't legislate morality. Which, we can't. The intent of the column was to say that despite laws to the contrary, people are out in the world raping, robbing, murdering and stealing.

He asked, "How can you protect immorality and say that you cannot legislate morality?" But, he also said, "'Fiscally conservative and morally liberal' isn't going to work at the polls the next time around…I'm going to vote Democrat and I hope you too can pull out of your depression and see that the people who just don't care or, like yourself, seem helpless, need to be reached by reps who send a message of hope and change."

Bottom line, he figured that I would go ahead and pass laws that protct amoral or immoral decisions and actions. I don't think so, but he has the right to say it. Or, write it.

Now, as I'm about to leave office, I will say that our policy is to be polite and helpful to all people.

But sometimes we just can't help ourselves.

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