By BRETT DUNLAP
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Local residents had concerns they wanted to make U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito aware of during a meeting Monday with the Republican’s field representatives.
Around 80-90 people gathered at the Judge Black Annex in Parkersburg with concerns regarding President Donald Trump’s executive actions in regard to immigration, the proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and environmental issues.
”The purpose of the meeting was to share democracy,” said former Wood County Commissioner Wayne Dunn. ”It was about getting people involved in the process.”
Dunn said the room was full and was standing room only.
”The people were very concerned,” Dunn said. ”The hope is Senator Capito’s office will be as concerned and take these questions as seriously as how they were offered.”
”She also offers mobile office hours, which are an opportunity for West Virginians to meet with a staff member and discuss casework or issues they are having with federal agencies,” said Press Secretary Kelley Moore. ”(Monday’s) event in Parkersburg was a mobile office, and an estimated 80-90 people attended.
”This month, 41 mobile offices have been offered across the state. Attendance and topics vary for each mobile office, and the senator is made aware of issues raised at each event. She values the opinions and comments that are shared with her,” Moore said.
Although Capito was not in attendance Monday, two of the senator’s field representatives were on hand to take questions and concerns regarding federal activities impacting West Virginia, according to a press release from Wood County Indivisible.
Wood County Indivisible is a group of constituents, primarily in West Virginia District 1 and other Mid-Ohio Valley areas, mobilizing on a local level to resist the current administration’s agenda which the group believes is detrimental to the citizens of District 1. Wood County Indivisible’s goal is to make itself seen and heard by its members of Congress, and create change in Washington, D.C., by starting at home, members said.
Wood County Indivisible members presented Capito’s representatives with a signed formal invitation, requesting the senator attend a public town hall meeting in Parkersburg on March 16 at the Parkersburg City Building, according to the Wood County Indivisible press release.
”The Town Hall’s purpose is to provide West Virginia voters an opportunity to inform Capito on local concerns regarding the ACA, public education, economic opportunity, clean air and water, climate change, the President’s tax returns and the involvement of Russia in the 2016 election,” the press release said.
Dunn said there was a lot of concerns about education, the ACA and the environment.
The field representatives said they would take what they gathered at the meeting and present it to the senator.
”They wanted to engage people in what they were thinking and be able to take it back to the senator,” Dunn said. ”People were happy to have the opportunity to express their concerns.”
Dunn said one of the issues he was concerned about was climate change.
”I represented my grandson and spoke on his behalf,” he said. ”Everything seemed to be more of the present rather than the future. I wanted to represent my grandson’s future.”
”I brought it up, because I wanted (Senator Capito) to realize that we are not getting out of climate change,” Dunn said. ”It is a mitigation process and the longer it takes us to do something serious, the greater the cost will be to us. It will be incalculable in 30-40 years.”
Kim Van Rijn of Parkersburg said she was concerned about a lot of things going on in this country now.
”I have serious concerns about our democracy,” she said. ”I almost feel like we are almost at a crossroads where we will have to stand up and be patriots like our forefathers. We are in a fight for freedom here.”
Van Rijn said she fears President Donald Trump is trying to turn this nation into an autocracy where one person has absolute power.
Possible Russian interference in the election, supression of the freedom of an independent press, new legislation being considered in states across the country trying to reduce freedom of assembly and penalizing people for protesting, and people losing their health care are some of the things worrying Van Rijn. She said if the ACA is repealed, there were people in that meeting who could die.
”I am concerned about everything that is happening,” she said. ”I served in the U.S. Navy for 17 years and my husband served for 26. I defended my country that way. Now I may have to stand up and defend it again and this is how I can do it,”she said.
Van Rijn hopes Capito will accept the invitation to come to Parkersburg and meet people here and hear what they have to say.
”People have a lot of concerns and they really want to talk to Senator Capito about those concerns,” she said. ”I think those who are concerned, now is the time to stand up and do something about it.”
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