Junk mail on the taxpayer’s dime

Birthday wishes: A constituent received from a birthday greeting from Sen. Jesse Hamilton in the mail.
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Sunset Park) constituent

A Sunset Park state pol is sending out an excessive number of taxpayer-funded mailers, including birthday and Valentine’s Day cards to constituents, who complain the unsolicited snail mail is a waste of public money that should instead go towards actually helping the district.

“We really need more money spent on the subway and the bus and we really need more money for Sunset Park schools,” said a constituent of state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Sunset Park), who asked to remain anonymous because she works for the city. “State resources being used to send birthday cards — I can’t think of any value that it brings.”

Hamilton, who rejoined the mainline Democrats after his rogue Independent Democratic Conference dissolved last month, sends out thousands of missives to voters across his jagged district that includes Sunset Park, Gowanus, Park Slope, Crown Heights, and Brownsville — even hitting one mailbox seven times in just six weeks, according to a constituent.

Some of the mailers are genuinely informative about things going on in the community, or recently about participatory budgeting, but others, including heart-stamped cards for Valentine’s Day, candles to wish someone a happy birthday, or a pink flowery card to wish his constituents a happy Mother’s Day — even though one woman who received it has no children — are just a waste of cash serving only to boost his name recognition in the face of a September primary challenge from local attorney Zellnor Myrie, said another Sunset Park constituent.

“It seems like a waste of money. It seems like he likes to advertise his name and I don’t know why he would not spend that money on something else in the district,” said Stacy Boyd. “Seems more designed to get his name out than anything else.”

Boyd said she gets electronic newsletters from her other state representative, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, and hardly any snail mail from Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), who is subjected to stricter city regulations for sending out mailers than the lax laws governing state pols.

But even Hamilton’s informative mailers are redundant and overwhelming wastes of trees, said another constituent who also asked to remain anonymous.

“When the pace increased so much I think it really started to get on my nerves — you shouldn’t be able to just blast people’s homes for mailers, that’s not how I want taxpayers’ dollars spent,” the voter said. “I got a mailer that was in the form of a letter about legislative proposals and then followed up two days later with exactly the same thing in a different form with graphics — I think it’s super environmentally unfriendly to be sending thousands of people pieces of mail.”

Hamilton’s office did not respond to requests for comment on how much he has spent on mailers in the last year, which coffers the cash comes from, or how many people are on the mailing list, but his spokesman said the massive mailings are just Hamilton’s way of keeping in touch with the people in his district, some of whom may not have other means of communication.

“Sen. Hamilton has had a proactive approach to communicating with the constituents he represents since day one. Neighborhood residents need to be aware of the help Sen. Hamilton and his team provides, and mailers are designed to assist with that over-arching outreach effort,” said spokesman Ean Fullerton. “I’d also add the observation that some don’t have the benefit of family and friends keeping in touch, so season’s greetings, well wishes on a birthday, or other special occasions help keep everyone connected with the community.”

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A long-time federal pol has ignored an invitation to debate issues in her district before the Democratic primary next month, said Adem Bunkeddeko, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Crown Heights).

“Debates are an essential part of our democratic process,” said Bunkeddeko. “I believe voters deserve the opportunity to hear the difference between our respective visions, track records of service, and plans for issues impacting the community, like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, immigration, and education.”

Bunkeddeko sent Clarke a formal letter on May 4 extending the invitation to a series of three debates with flexible dates ahead of the election, but has received no response, according to his campaign.

Clarke’s spokeswoman has told the media that her busy schedule makes it hard to meet with her challenger, but that’s no excuse to shy away from talking about issues that matter to voters, said Bunkeddeko, especially when Clarke has accomplished little to show for herself.

“Brooklyn voters should not accept this shabby treatment from their elected officials. We know that Yvette Clarke hasn’t passed a single bill in Washington, the least she could do is show up in her district to hear the questions and concerns of local residents,” he said.

Bunkeddeko even leveled at the six-term congresswoman the strongest insult one Democrat could make against another — comparing her to President Trump.

“We know Donald Trump is afraid of talking to the voters, real Democrats should not be,” he said.

Clarke’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
For all the moms: Another card a constituent received from the pol for Mother’s Day.
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Sunset Park) constituent

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