DEPUE — The actions taken during Donald Trump's first 12 days in the Oval Office helped fill the village hall in DePue with Bureau County residents from DePue, Princeton, Sheffield and Spring Valley. All were eager to discuss a multitude of concerns with their congressman.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) sent staff to his traveling office in DePue on Jan. 31. The first in a series throughout the 16th District, the meetings are meant to hear the concerns of constituents and provide guidance. If the traveling office in DePue was any indication of what the rest of them will be like, the congressman and his staff will have plenty to address.
Issues raised during the DePue traveling office included health care; environmental concerns; immigration; the president's impulsiveness, his apparent inability to accept criticism and facts; his willingness to conduct global diplomacy via social media while disregarding experienced diplomats; conflicts of interest; hastily crafted Executive Orders being issued without proper consultation; misinformation; controversial cabinet nominees; congressional accountability; public education; reactionary partisan politics; the National Security Council; gag orders; ethics; Planned Parenthood funding; the failure to use proper procedures; and the threat to the First Amendment.
Princeton resident Deborah Yeazel was the first to voice a concern and said, "After Mr. Trump's immigration order, my major concern is national security. The president's inner circle is made up of people without any national experience. I want the congressman to voice our worry that this inexperience is putting our country and our allies at risk."
Kinzinger aide Greg Ridenour assured Yeazel national security was "an extremely high priority" for the congressman, and he would inform him of the concern shared throughout the room.
Carolyn Schafer of Princeton said, "What has become more important to me is the accountability of Congress and the judiciary. We have a three branch government, and we need the respective branches to keep their checks and balances."
She added later Kinzinger is one of those in Congress who has shown he's willing to help keep things honest and has been diligent. She said she hoped he'd continue to work in that manner — a sentiment shared by others present.
"It helps us to hear the varying view points of our constituents, and Congressman Kinzinger represents all of his constituents, which is why we hold these traveling offices. This is a way he can better represent you and be your voice in Washington," Ridenour said.
Another Bureau County resident said, "We need to ensure we have a thoughtful process going forward. We know there will be disagreements. Progressives and conservatives aren't always going to agree, but I think we're at a point where the legitimacy of the process and the legitimacy of the government is threatened, so I commend the congressman for what he's done so far. I hope he'll continue to stand and insist that the government works as it's designed to do and be a check against what could be excesses from the Executive Branch."
Spring Valley resident Mary Jane Marini, a retired educator, voiced concerns about Betsy DeVos' nomination for Education Secretary and what it could mean for public and special education, particularly in rural areas.
Rick Brooks of Princeton said, "It's not only the goals that are at issue; it's what the intentions are; how the goals are accomplished; and what the consequences are. One of the most worrisome things is so many of the decisions are being made with little regard to the large number of people adversely affected. I think the congressman is correct to question that, and I appreciate his honesty. I want to encourage him to have the courage when he feels as though 'This is not right,' because he does have support among his constituents to do the right thing."
When the issue of de-funding Planned Parenthood was raised, Ridenour stated Congressman Kinzinger was against using federal funds to provide abortion services.
Immediately and in unison, nearly every woman present responded that wasn't the case and spoke of the importance of Planned Parenthood services to the well-being of women.
Princeton resident Bill Bouxsein reminded Ridenour of the Hyde Amendment which already restricts federal funding for abortion except in certain circumstances.
DePue Mayor Eric Bryant said he was fearful of the changes being made to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and how it's affecting clean-up efforts in the village.
"In regards to DePue, we've been dealing with the EPA for more than 20 years, and we were finally getting close to getting something done. The bottom line is that the Superfund process is a mess. For us to have to wait more than 21 years to have CBS and Exxon Mobil clean our property, where our kids play and which is filled with lead and arsenic, is just wrong. The process needs to be changed," Bryant said.
Others spoke of respecting our country's democratic processes and of being willing to allow Trump a chance to succeed, but added they wish he'd show a similar respect for our democracy by following proper procedures.
Those present all spoke highly of Kinzinger and in appreciation of his willingness to break partisan lines when needed.
Near the end of the meeting Ridenour said of Kinzinger, "He is not afraid to speak up for what is right for the district, right for Illinois and right for the country."
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