By Pat Grubb
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene continues to be a huge draw at her annual townhall meetings in Point Roberts. Due to a wedding taking place at the Gulf Road community center, this year’s townhall meeting was held at the Benson Road firehall on August 3. People lined the walls after all available chairs were taken.
DelBene opened the meeting with a brief discussion on healthcare and the state of infrastructure before opening it up to audience questions. “One of the big issues I hear most from constituents is health care,” she said, adding, “We need to make sure we have affordable health care across the country. We are now seeing more and more junk plans out there.” Prescription drug prices is a bipartisan issue that Congress is working on, she said, but added she was very concerned about such things as coverage for pre-existing conditions. “We thought those things had been settled but they are now under attack in the courts.”
Turning to infrastructure, DelBene said that the country was falling behind and somehow had to devise a means to pay for improvements. Traditionally, infrastructure was paid for by the federal gas tax but that source has been declining for years as vehicles become increasingly fuel-efficient, she pointed out.
Audience participation opened up with a question from John Hammell, who wanted to know if DelBene and her staff were aware of Vitamin C’s utility in solving the opioid crisis in the country. “Vitamin C attaches to the same brain receptors as opioids and solves addiction,” Hammel said, and asked her to help publicize it. In response, DelBene said she was unaware of the science behind the claim but felt that the opioid crisis was a public health issue which should not be treated as a criminal issue.
A major concern of audience members was economic support for Point Roberts and the availability of federal funds for that purpose. Judson Meraw asked DelBene to work on community investment programs while Tom O’Brien asked for federal funding to develop an economic development strategy. New resident Catherine Smith also inquired as to whether there might be funding for transportation issues. DelBene pointed out that, while the federal government does provide money for those kinds of projects, they are normally piggybacked onto state and local government projects. She referred to an upcoming meeting being held in Point Roberts with state and county legislators and suggested that would be an opportune time to raise these issues.
The local Point Roberts border was of even greater concern to audience members judging by the number of comments made. One woman said that she and others “were concerned about increasingly aggressive questioning and behavior” by the U.S. border guards. Another wanted to know if there was a website where people could report on disturbing incidents while coming south into Point Roberts. Another said local organizations depend on volunteer help and that volunteers who come through the border are continually hassled when they come through. DelBene said her staff was prepared to assist constituents with border issues and said it helps to have reports of individual incidents when she meets with border officials.
Madelaine Anderson expressed worry about the national deficit saying it concerns millions of people. The last Congress, said DelBene, actually went in the wrong direction. “We’re not seeing new revenues come in due to the new tax structure, which actually made it worse. These are hard discussions – it’s not just talking about cutting expenses; it’s also about new sources of income. These are very contentious and partisan issues.”
Michelle Wallace said, “I’m very concerned about the state of the country” and asked DelBene what she was doing to defend the constitution. “I voted for an impeachment inquiry,” DelBene replied, a line which drew the most applause from the audience. The meeting concluded with DelBene suggesting that people should talk to people with whom they disagreed, saying they would find that there were a lot of things they had in common with other Americans as well.