Let's be reasonable.We have the luxury in this area of Jim Oberstar, a fantastic congressman with 35 years of experience and an excellent record, now serving as the chairman of the very important Transportation Committee in Congress.
While still having the responsibilities of representing our huge area on all issues, all votes and all other duties in Congress, Jim has another full-time job in chairing the Transportation Committee, along with being the congressional go-to guy with his expertise in airline safety.
As he reaches his mid-70s, Jim still is more active, more agile and more hardworking than most anyone, including those half his age. Except for time out for church, he usually works seven days per week. His idea of a work day is still 12-14 hours.
Believe it or not, despite all the media hype and controversy right now, there are other issues facing this nation besides health care. We all agree it is one of the very most important, but we still have great need to deal with employment, education, environment and financing in a recession era.
We cannot expect our congressman to respond individually to every e-mail, telephone call or letter on one specific issue. He has 700,000 of us to represent. He does have a very seasoned and talented staff, both here in the district and in Washington; but they, too, are limited in number and can only work so many hours.They respond to a lot of people directly, but it is impossible to personally communicate with everyone.
Oberstar, as usual, is way ahead of the field. He has been very seriously studying and formulating his position on health care for when congress resumes deliberation on the subject. He has seriously considered and spoken on the subject for years.Although fully informed, he will still hear, read and consider any and all updated opinion, advice and constructive criticism with what he has already absorbed and expressed on the subject matter.
Oberstar's offices in Washington, Duluth, Brainerd and North Branch are now deluged with questions, demands and even personal attacks complaining that he is not talking to that individual personally, or appearing in all of our small towns for a so-called town meeting so people can complain or express their irrational fears, most of which have just surfaced or been manufactured in the last month or two.
Jim spent 10 years of apprenticeship as a congressman being a round-the-clock administrative assistant for his predecessor, John Blatnik.He now has 35 years of intensive experience in the representative position. With a long succession of 2- to-1 re-election mandates in an otherwise closely divided district, he could easily rest on his laurels, just be the elder statesman and coast through another half a dozen elections.
But his constant work ethic and intense interest in representing his district and making improvements at a national level won't let him slow up much, if at all.
Give him a break.That's what the recess is supposed to be.As Eighth District DFL chair, I'd like to see him and talk with him more, too.I have difficulty scheduling direct time with him also.Unfortunately, he is only human.He only has 24 hours a day.Not much time per capita.
Did you ever count up how many town meetings it would take to really cover our district?How many towns?How many townships, 700-800 maybe? And then consider 17 counties and about 25 legislative units.With a town meeting in every town, Jim would have time for nothing else if he spent not just August, but the rest of the year as well, at such meetings.
We ought to be happy with what we've got.How many times over the last 35 years did you or anyone you know complain or demand a series of "town meetings" of Jim on any single issue during August recess?Did you do it for NAFTA, the gas tax, airline safety or the Iraq war?
So why now? Do you have anything to tell him that he doesn't already know? Or is it just to complain and criticize? He's gotten enough of that lately.
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