NARP Goes Up To “The Hill”.
Members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers will be gathering later this month for our annual Spring meeting in Washington, DC. There will be a board meeting, meetings of the 110-person NARP Council of Representatives also attended by rank-and-file NARP members, discussion groups, guest speakers and, every other year, the election of officers and directors.
There is also—smack in the middle the three-day event— our “Day on The Hill”. That’s Washington-speak for “capitol hill”, and describes the area where the actual capitol building was built and where most of the House and Senate Office buildings are located.
Our members break up into small groups and, for that entire day, meet with the senators and members of Congress representing their states and specific districts. Well, truthfully, about nine times out of ten, we end up meeting with one of the staff people. That’s fine—better in some ways, actually—because the staff people will usually give you a lot more of their time and they’re the ones who advise their bosses on policy and legislative matters.
The meetings are pretty much all the same: the NARP member outlines our organization’s concerns and concludes with what is known as “The Ask” … specifically, what it is we want the senator or representative to do for us: vote for (or against) a certain bill, sign on as a co-sponsor for a proposed piece of legislation, or just to be pro-transportation.
We’re usually welcomed in those offices because we’re an excellent source of current, solid information on transportation issues and, almost more important, we’re constituents representing more constituents back home.
There are times—however rare—when things don’t go so well. A few years back, one of our members was meeting with the chief-of-staff for a congressman from a southern state and the subject of high-speed rail came up. The NARP member said that high-speed rail systems were being built all over the world, even in under-developed countries, and that the U.S. was a third-rate power when it came to public transportation.
At that point in the discussion, the congressman’s staffer interrupted our member and said, “If y’all gonna continyuh runnin’ down the United States of Amurica, we got nothin’ further to discuss.” And the meeting was over. Pretty hard to have a constructive discussion with an arrogant putz like that, especially since he was doubtless reflecting his boss’s attitude.
Nevertheless, we show up every year and we’re going to keep on comin’ on! In one of the the next posts, I’ll pass along some of the items in NARP’s “Ask” for 2015.