Advisory Boards, used efficiently, could be an effective tool to increase communication between government officials and experienced leaders of various industries. Rep. Reed has four Advisory Boards: A Veterans Advisory Board, a Small Business Advisory Board, A Manufacturing Advisory Board and an Agriculture Advisory Board. He meets with them periodically and reports about the meeting on his website.
I became interested in Advisory Boards, especially the Agriculture Advisory, during the Farm Bill Drama of last June and July. I was disappointed in what I found.
The Agriculture Advisory Board met May 28 on a farm in the Town of Canandaigua (Ontario County). I wanted to find out who was on the Agriculture Advisory Board, in particular if there was anyone from my home county, Yates, on the Advisory Board.
The Agriculture Advisory Board has no permanent members. According to an email from Rep. Reed’s Washington office: “Attendees for Congressman Reed’s Agricultural Advisory Board (as well as all other advisory boards the Congressman hosts) vary depending on the location of the board meeting. The last meeting of the Agricultural Advisory Board was in Ontario county with attendees from Ontario county and the surrounding area. Attendance is voluntary with no compensation.
The advisory boards are a chance for the Congressman to hear from a number of constituents from across the 23rd district in different industries (i.e. agriculture, manufacturing, small business, Veterans, etc.). Following each advisory board meeting, our office issues a release recapping the meeting and highlighting topics that came up. Please feel free to visit the Congressman’s website, www.Reed.house.gov, for these releases. We also post photos on our Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/RepTomReed, from the advisory board meetings.”
I received at list of those invited to the May 28 Agriculture Advisory Board meeting from Rep. Reed’s Geneva Office. It had no names; It had “Organizations” (e.g. ‘American Small Farm Bureau’, ‘Farm Insurance’, ‘Cornell Agriculture Experiment Station’ and ‘Dairy Upstate Farms Cooperative’), Titles (e.g. ‘Beef Director District 4’, ‘President NYS Apple Association’, ‘Sparta Town Supervisor’), Farms (e.g. ‘Wohlschlegel Maple Syrup Farm’, ‘Tamberlane Farms’ and ‘Aberdeen Hill Farm’) and an awful lot of County Farm Bureaus Presidents.
I was told that this was the list of who was invited, but the Constituent Service Specialists didn’t know who attended. There was a sign-in sheet, but he didn’t have it, and didn’t know who did. It was pointed out that not all would sign the sign-in sheet. I still don’t know how these Board Members were invited if there wasn’t a list of names or addresses. Maybe I should find out how to FOIL my congressman.
By not having a common group for an advisory board diminish its effectiveness. The way Rep. Reed has them organized leaves the opportunity for the members communicating ideas and concerns between meeting almost nil. There is a chance that consecutive meetings could have no common members.
The email from Rep. Reed’s email told us that the advisory board meetings were, “a chance for the Congressman to hear from a number of constituents from across the 23rd district in different industries … Following each advisory board meeting, our office issues a release recapping the meeting and highlighting topics that came up.”
The congressman’s website report on the May 28 Agriculture Advisory Board meeting stated:
After listening to our farmers today about their concerns and support for these proposals (Speciality Crop Research and Crop Insurance). I will make sure those voices are heard as we achieve a long-term solution for American farmers.”
He ended his report with: “Over the past year, we have spent time visiting with farmers across the district at their operations. Today was another opportunity to get different stakeholders in the same room to bounce ideas and priorities off one another ahead of debate and votes on the Farm Bill and immigration reform in Washington.”
I wondered if the Board members brought up the terms “Specially Crop Research” or “Crop Insurance”. They sound like republican talking points t me. Ask farmers you know, what topic would they bring up if they were able to talk to our congressman. Also, that meeting was a few days before the discussion and defeat of the first Farm Bill Drama. I know that Crop Insurance was an important topic in that discussion.
At the Small Business Advisory Board meeting, July 1, the main topics discussed were the major obstacles facing ‘main street’, the $17 trillion dollar national debt, the tax code, and Obamacare. Sounds familiar? They should, they are, according to the GOP the reasons for all the problems our country could have. I wonder what advice the Board gave about the Tax Code. What would the small businesses want to change? Reed’s report doesn’t tell us. Do you think the small business owners would want Rep. Reed to keep his mortgage deductions on both his Corning House and his Keuka Lake Cottage? Did the Small Business owners say anything about the unemployment rate decreasing? Did they say anything about the infrastructure that needs to be replaced or improved? Did they say anything about immigration?
We don’t know, and we won’t know. We only know what Rep. Reed wants us to know. There is little transparency of what really goes on at these meetings This is important. During the first version of the Farm Bill, it was reported that Rep. Reed voted for an amendment against the wishes of a group of Dairy Farmers he had met with. It would be interesting to know what the farmers actually told him, and what Rep. Reed told the farmers.
Looking at the big picture of the Advisory Boards, I see them as a glorified Town Hall Meeting. Rep. Reed has an invite only crowd. He will not let his constituents know who is in the group. He controls the discussion topics and the “recapped” reports — the only news of the events the constituents receive. We deserve transparency and accountability.
In his latest online newsletter is stated that he will meet with the “emergency responders advisory board”. They must be new; there hasn’t been a report about previous meetings, nor did the email from Reed’s Washington office mentioned them. I wonder what their ‘recapped’ report will include.