A recent news story by Portland Press Herald reporter Scott Thistle reported that public forums by members of Congress have increased slightly around the country but are still a lot less than they were in the past.

The story did credit Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, for hosting public forums while noting that the other three members of our congressional delegation do not. Early in his first term, I told Jared how Congressman David Emery, who I worked for in the 1970s, held “Emery town meetings” all over his district. Many were in grange halls in small rural towns.

The halls would be packed and people appreciated the chance to share their thoughts and opinions with Dave on the issues important to them, and to ask him questions. And I know that Dave really enjoyed those forums. I think it was his third term when a poll showed that 80% of the people in his district had met Dave. That was amazing.

One of Jared’s forums was in Mount Vernon’s community center. The place was packed and people really enjoyed and appreciated the chance to get up and share their opinions with Jared and ask him questions. And he did a great job of responding as well as listening carefully to their opinions. I’ve often said that anyone who gets to know Jared will definitely vote for him. He is an outstanding young man.

I am a good friend of Sen. Angus King, and I can tell you that Angus really enjoys talking with people. For several years I escorted Angus around the sportsman’s show in Augusta. My goal was always to get Angus up and down all five aisles, but the best I ever did was 1 ½ aisles because he just loved to stop and talk with everyone.

Thistle reported that Angus had recently participated in a three-hour panel discussion in Bangor, with 100 people in attendance, about preventive medicine. That is wonderful, but it’s not the kind of forums I am advocating for.

I am certain that Angus would enjoy public forums. So today I am encouraging Angus, Sen. Susan Collins, and Rep. Chellie Pingree to host some public forums like David Emery used to do.

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One thing I really admire about Jared Golden is that he is very thoughtful and doesn’t just jump into every issue in Washington. He really takes the time to evaluate each issue and its importance to the people he represents. This can be frustrating to some of his constituents who want him to jump in on every issue.

But Jared’s approach is working, because as a freshman member of Congress he is actually accomplishing a lot, which is surprising in the dysfunctional and ugly political system in Washington, D.C.

For example, Congress passed Jared’s bill to increase federal funding and resources for the small businesses that make up most of Maine’s economy. Jared is also focused on driving down skyrocketing health care costs. He cosponsored legislation that will allow Medicare to work on behalf of seniors to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. I think this is a very important bill for Mainers.

Jared is also fighting for our kids. Over the past five years, almost 3,000 Maine children were diagnosed with lead poison. Thanks to his leadership, we’re getting close to removing lead from nearly 220,000 homes per year. And he is working to bring high-speed internet to Maine’s rural communities.

In October, Maranacook High School teacher Steve DeAngelis brought some senior students to our house to help with chores. They brought in our winter wood and cut a lot of brush. Jared stopped by for a visit that day and the kids were very excited to meet and talk with him, and it was obvious to me that he really enjoyed visiting with them.

If a member our congressional delegation hosts a public forum near you, I encourage you to attend and share your thoughts with them. And I also hope this newspaper will keep reporting about these forums, which will be another way to encourage our delegation to do them.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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