Friday marks the thirty-third anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, the cult mass-suicide that killed 918 people in and around the Jonestown compound in Guyana. The dead also included a congressional delegation (led by Congressman Leo Ryan) that was seeking information about alleged abuses by the leadership of the community.
It’s unfortunate that today, Congressman Ryan is remembered primarily for his murder in Jonestown. During his years in the Assembly (1959-1972), Ryan played a significant role in the operation of the legislature. In 1966, Ryan was led the opposition to Proposition 1A, which created California’s full-time legislature.
A year later, Ryan authored the resolution (HR 410 of 1967) that established the design of the seal of the California State Assembly (which is still used today).
During the same period, Ryan also wrote a book about the legislature titled Understanding California Government and Politics. In it, Ryan describes the many interests that compete for the attention of a legislator, and offers some excellent advice to constituents who are thinking about contacting their legislators;
“You have a state legislator within easy reach of you. He does have an office. If you need information, call him. If you would like to have him speak to your class, invite him. When they have the time, most legislators will be interested in meeting you. You will find them sympathetic to your interests and far from unapproachable.”