Guest Article: Two Meetings, Two Reps, Two Reactions
By Michelle Petz
Photos below by Michelle Petz
Editor's Note: In a previous article in these pages we asked readers who attended the Town Hall with the U.S. Representative for our 2nd District Bill Huizenga to share their thoughts about the event. The meeting was held in Baldwin last Saturday February 25th.
Michelle Petz who is a resident of Garfield Township went a step further also spending time with our newly elected State Rep Scott VanSingel.
In our Guest Article she offers her take on the two recent encounters with our duly elected representatives from Lansing and D.C.
I started my weekend at Daniel’s restaurant in Hesperia, meeting with Scott VanSingel, the newly elected, young Representative for the 100th District. Three other constituents and I sat around a table...
...with Mr. VanSingel, drinking coffee, and sharing ideas. We talked about Nestle pumping more water out of the Muskegon River watershed, a new bill in Lansing to expand broadband internet service in rural Michigan, and his decision to stand up to his colleagues and vote against elimination of the state income tax.
Mr. VanSingel and I don't agree on everything but he listened, was humble, open to discussing opposing ideas, and eager to learn about issues he didn't know. I left feeling that our State Rep represents all of us.
My experience at Congressman Bill Huizenga's town hall on Saturday in Baldwin could not have been more different.
The crowd was 300 + and Mr. Huizenga held on to the only microphone in the room as if his life depended on it. He was asked questions about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia and that country’s interference in the 2016 election, and education - including the recently-introduced H.R. 610, a bill which he denied knowledge of, in spite of an email with a constituent proving otherwise.
Mr. Huizenga responded to the concerns with well-scripted answers from which he refused to deviate. While speaking with an emergency room physician about the downside of repealing the ACA, Mr. Huizenga refused to listen and fell back on his talking points. Likewise, while Michigan’s second congressional district relies on fresh water and a clean environment for its tourism economy (as well as for the health of its residents), Mr. Huizenga continued to support rolling back EPA protections.
Most disturbing was that Mr. Huizenga insisted on highlighting the reasons why there is so much divide in our country, rather than acknowledging the honest, shared concerns of thousands of ordinary people in our district. I asked how he could support Trump after he openly mocked a disabled journalist. Mr. Huizenga flat out denied that Trump did this, even though the video we have all seen dozens of times shows otherwise.
After four and a half hours I left this town hall feeling hopeless and frustrated. To my eyes and ears it appears we have a Congressional Representative who, like the President he unquestionably supports, does not acknowledge or govern according to objective facts, and does not respect the role of a free press. I'm not sure how we can have a functioning democracy if these things are no longer of value.
However, in light of my Friday meeting with Rep. Scott VanSingel, I do feel optimistic that a new generation of political leaders is emerging who value listening, compromise, basic facts, and people over party.
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