Bernie Sanders not supporting museum

To the Editor:

Sen. Bernard Sanders may be an excellent senator in many respects, but his office recently failed in its duty to hear the concerns of an important industry to Vermont.

In February, I volunteered as a Vermont delegate for Museum Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. The aim is to educate elected officials about policy issues affecting museums. This year, a proposed change to the tax code related to charitable gifts could result in huge funding losses for museums, including more than 70 in Vermont.

I am not a lobbyist. I am a doctoral student paying her own way through school. When I volunteered, there were no participants signed up from Vermont. Hailing from nearby Plattsburgh, and being a fan of Senators Leahy and Sanders, I felt current enough on Vermont politics to lobby for the state's museums in the absence of a better, local advocate.

Whereas three New York Representatives: Gibson, Tonko, and Owens; both New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand; and Vermont Senator Leahy's staff actively listened, politely questioned, even suggested creative alternatives to the problem, Senator Bernard Sander's chief of staff did not. He arrived late, did not stop talking long enough to listen and demonstrated a clear propensity to talk with the one other man in a room otherwise filled with capable and smart women. Museums cannot spend millions to win elections or influence policy. Once a year, they get 20 minutes to state their case. Vermont, 19 of yours were stolen by a self-important surrogate for your elected official, Sen. Sanders, who was unable to attend at the last minute.

Like many others from my industry, I travelled to Washington at my own expense. I slept on a couch and left my child with relatives so that I could access, for a brief moment, the government of the people. I did so because museums are important economic vehicles, educational institutions and caretakers of our collective history, knowledge, heritage and culture. In tough economic times, they often fall between the cracks because they lack high-powered representation in the halls of power.

I had hoped for an open dialogue with the office of Sen. Sanders, one of the few independent voices in a nation gridlocked by partisan politics. Instead, I encountered a closed mind, an open mouth and a dismissive attitude. This was your senator's official reception for a citizen who cared enough to advocate for her neighboring state. Or at least try to.

Sheila Hoffman

Plattsburgh, N.Y.

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