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Voice Problems? Think Tea.

April 25, 2009 - Joselyn King
Wheeling's recent "tea party" was deemed such a success that a follow-up is soon planned -- perhaps as soon as the July 4 weekend. (That's yet to be confirmed.)

The reason for the interest in these events -- at least locally -- is simple. People don't feel their elected officials are listening to them individually, and they're seeking a collective voice.

Some may scoff at the notion of the "tea parties," but they very well could serve as a wake-up call for politicians who aren't returning phone calls or e-mails. This is a frequent complaint I'm hearing from their constituents.

And I don't doubt this is happening.

I know as a reporter seeking even simple comment from some elected officials, it appears there are attempts to control the overall message they present.

More and more it seems press people working for members of Congress -- those working for U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., most recently -- are asking exactly what it is that I'm going to ask their boss, "so that they can be prepared."

I think the more proper term is "prepped" -- probably from some party playbook. (And both parties apparently have one.)

I've actually seen Congressional candidates whose parties have saddled them with a special "keyring." Attached to that keyring are dozens of notecards stating prepared responses to most frequently asked questions, and the candidate is supposed to learn and recite these.

But I can't say all politicians rely on prepared statements, or avoid communicating with constituents so as to stay on message.

Gov Joe. Manchin is totally off the cuff, and I'm guessing he would probably consider memorizing anything a waste of time.

And last week, Wheeling City Clerk Janice Jones told me something about the city's mayor Andy McKenzie. She said he answers "every spec of mail" directed to him as mayor.


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