A Primer for Calling Your Elected Officials’ Offices

Hey, hey, hey! Is this the constituent or the staffer? I mean: Am I right, folks?! I know you know what I’m talkin’ about, people! Seriously, though, that’s a cute baby. (Source: TeleSales Magic/Altavista® Image Search)

I’VE BEEN IN THIS TRADE FOR FAR TOO LONG. I’ve heard it all, from yuppies complaining about inch-long cracks in the sidewalk, to people with REAL problems like foreclosure or whether they have to pay the landlord for recovering the toothbrush they dropped in the terlit. Here are some suggestions for you when 311 just isn’t enough, and you’ve got to call your electeds:


Don’t gab about your problem to the first person who answers the phone. This person is usually an intern or low-level staffer who is probably going to transfer your call elsewhere. Or it might be me, and in that case, I’m just about to take lunch. So, get to the point!


The person answering the phone PROBABLY has relatively no input on policy, and they have enough to do answering calls from people like you and god knows who else, so do not expect them to know every bill or community board resolution word for word. Settle your ass down and they will find this information for you. If not, call a different elected’s office.


Do us all a favor and try not to call after 6pm. A staffer will still have to answer the phone, but won’t be as friendly because they’re in the stages of trying to get to a Community Board meeting/town hall/tenant meeting/home (just kidding about the last one, people).


Please only call YOUR representative. You get one Assemblymember, State Senator, City Councilmember,  and Congressperson. You get two U.S. Senators, which you would think would make things run a little faster over there. You would THINK. And yes, you CAN pick and choose these members. It’s called voting, and it happens on the first Tuesday of November. After that, you’re stuck. We don’t do that referendum power-to-the-people crap in New York. So remember: politicians care about THEIR constituents. If an Assemblymember from Syracuse wanted to give a crap about what someone in Bay Ridge thought, they would have run for election there (and probably lost, unless they had the vowel).


Know which office to call. For local issues, call the district office. For legislative issues, call the legislative office. This would be the one in downtown Manhattan for the City Council, Albany for your state electeds, and Washington, DC for the nationals.


Just give us the information we ask for. Joe McCarthy will not put you on a list. The kids that record this stuff from your phone call already know your address, age, and family members after you’ve given us your first and last name. It’s public record. We’ve always been able to do this, but it just seems creepier now because of the fast computers we have instead of the slow paper. Also, you’ve probably given more personal information to sign up for your Staples® Rewards Card. Cry me a river.


Be patient. Government employees on an elected’s payroll work like maniacs in understaffed offices. Most likely, no one they allow you to talk to is rollin’ in it. They might make even less than you do.


Lastly, BE NICE. I’d rather talk to a friendly Halliburton executive than a demeaning Red Cross volunteer any day of the week.

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