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Senator Laura Ebke, Letter to the District
We have completed 22 days of the 90 day Legislative session. Last week’s floor sessions were wrapped up in debate and discussion on LB22 (the adjustments to the current year budget). It was finally advanced from General on Friday, after several days of debate. We will pick up debate on permanent rules this week.
Communications and Education. I welcome emails, and try to answer them in some way, whenever I can. I imagine that I occasionally miss responses, but my goal is to try and acknowledge—and respond—whenever I can.
Recently, some emails that a colleague—Sen. Mike Groene—wrote as part of an email exchange with someone who had contacted him almost two years ago, were made public by the man who had engaged him in the exchange. Sen. Groene’s blunt responses have generated a fair amount of attention in some circles, resulting in some people suggesting that he should resign as Chair of the Education Committee.
A couple of thoughts about that: first, to know Sen. Groene is to recognize that he is sometimes gruff, sometimes confrontational, and sometimes too blunt in his approach—but those who know him also know that his gruff exterior hides a soft interior that truly cares; second, while all public officials know (at least would, if they think about it) that anything that they write or say could become part of the public record, we walk a fine line when it comes to electronic communications—both email and social media.
Email seems (in some ways) more personal (and casual) than does a printed letter. Rather than sitting down and typing out a letter, which will then be printed on stationery and signed by us, emails lend themselves to “quick responses” on both sides of the conversation. They tend to the conversational rather than the formal—which can be both good and bad.
Sen. Groene’s email exchange—and the publication of it—will probably have long reaching effects. Elected official in Nebraska will be ever more cautious about responding to emails with anything beyond simple acknowledgements, for fear that conversations which they engaged in, in good faith, years ago, will come back to haunt them without context.
Context is important, and is often lost in email exchanges. Is this the first email, or the tenth, on this topic that I’ve answered today? Is this my first email from this correspondent, or have we been exchanging a series of emails which have become more heated with time? Is there a relationship that has been previously developed? Am I answering this email during a quiet time when I can give my response serious thought, or am I answering quickly, in between other events?
It is my goal to always treat those who email me with respect. But I’m human, and I know that sometimes—especially when we are talking about things that both sides of the conversation feel strongly about—it’s possible to push the envelope of propriety just a little too far, and become argumentative. I imagine we’ll all be guarding against that possibility a bit more in the future.
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