As a retired 35-year employee of a nonprofit organization, I appreciate Maine’s long tradition of open government. And just as most Mainers do, I have a deep respect for those who are elected to serve their state and remain accessible to those they were elected to represent.

That’s why I was so disappointed that Sen. Susan Collins declined my invitation to attend two free and open town hall events to answer questions from constituents about her voting record. Like many of my friends and neighbors in Sanford, I have a few questions I’d like to ask the senator.

I want to know why she voted for a tax bill that gave a $100 billion windfall to corporations at the expense of working families in Maine. I want to know why she voted to repeal, block or defund the Affordable Care Act 21 times without a plan to protect Mainers with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance coverage. And I want to know why she has the time to attend high-dollar fundraisers in New York City and Washington, D.C., with the same special interest donors who benefited most from the tax bill, but not enough time to attend a free and open town hall forum — something she has not done in nearly two decades.

Sen. Collins began serving in the Senate in 1997 along with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who also began his first term in 1997. Since then, Sen. Wyden has held 950 free and open town hall meetings. Sen. Collins, on the other hand, has participated in only a small handful of these forums — and none of them has taken place this century.

It was with all this in mind that I visited Sen. Collins’ Biddeford office last month to invite her to two town hall forums happening in Maine during the Senate’s August recess, a time when senators should be hearing from and meeting with their constituents. And likewise, a time when Mainers should have the opportunity to get answers directly from their elected officials, not from a staffer or a form letter.

There are many important issues that affect Mainers — from access to high-quality, affordable health care, to jobs and taxes. And people want to know why she’s taken millions in special interest money from huge corporations. To my disappointment, the senator declined to attend both events, citing other commitments. When asked if there were other days available to accommodate the senator’s schedule, her office did not reply.

Despite the senator’s absence, the forums in Portland and Bangor were attended by over 200 Mainers.

“Why did you vote for a tax bill that undercuts the ACA, with the possibility of throwing millions off of health care, so we can give corporations and the ultra-wealthy a tax break?” asked one Mainer.

“I’m wondering why you voted in favor of the tax bill … when there’s a growing and a very damaging divide between the one percent and the rest of us?” asked another.

Unfortunately, Sen. Collins wasn’t there to offer any answers.

As the person who invited Sen. Collins to the town hall, I felt it was only right for me to deliver to her office a written list of all the questions that were asked at each event. Though I won’t hold my breath, I hope that the senator sees to it that these questions are answered. At this point, it’s the least she can do.

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