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Week #5: Kline Town Hall Meeting On? Maybe....

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 03/08/07 00:05

by Dave Mindeman

Week #5 at Congressman Kline's office had Steve Sutton, his chief of staff, involved once more. In an effort to lay down some ground rules, Sutton requested a meeting with the group organizers prior to the 9am group meeting. Again, the idea of a district town hall meeting (with restrictions) was the main topic, although a specific date still has not been established. Sometime during the first week in April seems to be the goal, but no specifics yet.

Here is a slightly edited (for length) version of the meetings (both the early and regular one) from one of the participants:

A meeting (was scheduled) around 8:30am with Steve Sutton, the chief of staff, who had flown back to the district again to meet with us.

In this preliminary meeting Steve made an offer of several meetings in the conference room with Rep. Kline, and we could pick the folks to be admitted to the meeting exclusively about peace in Iraq (and perhaps also Afghanistan ). He did seem to say there would be occasional town hall meetings (of a larger sort, on perhaps a variety of topics). (He was) asked if that could mean two or three meetings per year, and Steve said yes.

Steve explained that his office wasn't used to trying something like this. This, for his office mates, both in Burnsville and DC, is a busy time of year, when groups of people with opinions on various sides of issues, come to Washington to lobby and present their views. Steve likes the fact that we are working to create dialogue on this.

At 9am, the group, numbering 40 - 50 met in the conference room, to discuss Steve's offer of small meetings of 50 attendees dedicated to the topic of ending the hostilities. There was rather lengthy discussion, and ultimately, it became clear that the group did not want that kind of smaller format, but preferred a larger venue (like a high school auditorium), and that we'd be willing to include general topics of interest to all comers. We took (a vote)
on whether we approved of a large meeting. It was approved nearly unanimously.

When he was informed about this consensus, Steve Sutton ultimately said okay to a Town Hall Meeting about a variety of questions, which could include bringing peace to Iraq through negotiation, which may be our main theme. Greg (Skog, the organizer) said he would help maintain order, respect, and having a meeting that wouldn't get bogged down. Various people suggested the League of Women Voters as moderators, and Steve wasn't completely sure about how unbiased that group is. Steve reiterated that folks from the office and Greg would iron out details. I support Greg in being patient and persistent with those guys in making this happen.

I believe our available, persistent attention to the details of this meeting will help it get scheduled and publicized.

So, will the District Town Hall Meeting happen? I guess until the date and time are set, I wouldn't consider it a done deal. For 5 weeks, that has been the one and only request from this group. If that had been arranged from the start, then the Congressman's valuable time would not have been "infringed" upon by this group.

Chief of Staff Steve Sutton felt compelled to explain the Congressman's position in a featured letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press. This letter and comments he made to the group during the private meeting brought the following response from one member of the group:

Here?s what?s he says in his LTE that is not true:

1) there was never any talk of anyone getting arrested except by Kline?s staff who called the police the first time the group came to his office. The group made clear to Kline?s staff their intent for dialogue and not to provoke arrest from the beginning.

2) Sutton complains of spending 8 hours during five consecutive weeks meeting with the group but this expenditure of time could have been completely avoided if Kline had consented and set a date for a public ?town hall meeting? with his constituents.

Kline?s staff has continually disparaged the idea of having a ?town hall meeting? saying Kline is too busy and such meetings are potentially ?contentious and unproductive?. Sutton also said that Kline doesn?t want to hold a meeting on one particular issue as it might set a precedent for other ?single issue? groups badgering him for meetings. However, out of the other side of his mouth, Sutton said they previously had difficulty getting anyone to show up when they tried to hold public meetings.

And of course all of this covers up the fact that Kline meets all the time with single issue corporate and Republican lobbyists. How else does he get over $605,000 given to him every election cycle from their PACs? Eyes would probably pop to see Kline?s heavy schedule of meetings with the lucrative ?special interests? he favors who finance his campaigns as opposed to the unprecedented efforts of the CD-2 group seeking peace in the mid-east. Kline?s staff is obviously irritated to have to take some time away to address ordinary citizens. But the 8 hours spent in five consecutive meetings has been due to THEIR office?s stalling, not the group?s.

By the way, wouldn?t it be great if the peace group?s efforts DID set a precedent? Can you just imagine the impact it would have if a single issue group like disabled veterans demanded a public meeting with Kline?

I guess I understand the frustration that arises on both sides. This is a frustrating issue.... with no readily available compromise. But the ramifications of this war keep mounting... this week's topic on the shortcomings at Walter Reed is, yet another, by product of a war without solutions.

I hope everyone can take a deep breath and settle this issue with a time and place that allows for meaningful discussion. Shouting matches don't help but stonewalling is just as unproductive. We are all aware of Congressman Kline's position regarding Iraq... but, even he, must be feeling the intense frustration of our military being placed at constant risk... for an Iraqi government that shows no serious inclination to "fix" the political problems of a hopelessly fractured nation.

Maybe his mind is set, but he represents a district with a lot of people.... many of whom he stills needs to hear from.
comments (9) permalink
03/15/07 22:40
OK Eric..try to stay on message now. Let's take these one at a time. I didn't realize that giving money to an opponent during an election disqualifies a person from being a constituent?? I thought you righties believed that giving money to candidates was a right of free speech; I would also assume that letters to the editor do not disqualify a person either. Kline won the right to represent me.. he may not agree with me but I do live in his district and he should a least listen to everybody.
Now, as to the Occupation Project. The press release sent out by the "national" group states what you said; but if you followed this from the beginning you would know that the organizers of the Kline group took a different tack from the very first week and opted to petition for a public forum. That was a decision made by this groups organizers.....not me.... at the start, and was different from the national organizers.
Now, regarding letters. I like the way you focus on one word in a letter and dismiss all the rest of it. Avoidance; stonewalling, dismissive -- would you like other words? It comes down to one point -- meeting with the public. If Kline wants to open it up to other topics -- that's fine with us. Everyone knows what the #1 topic will probably be anyway. Eric, you seem you could be a rational guy. Can't we agree that a public town hall meeting is a positive thing to do?
03/15/07 19:02
In your previous post you claim that a single issue forum was never your groups demand. Now you're saying it was. Which one is it Dave? You're flopping around like a flounder.
03/15/07 19:01
The letters Kline's staff have written, were not in retaliation. Your wife calls Kline a "coward", and you don't expect anyone to respond?! You cant even defend her actions, you guys are so hypocritical, you like to dish it out but you cant take it.
03/15/07 19:00
Your delusion is now reaching new heights. "Public forum"? that is not what your group is simply asking for. The group's demands have continually shifted. The petition your group signed asked for a town hall meeting on Iraq, the letter from your group demands immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Occupation Project, which organized your protest, stated its purpose was to occupy Kline's office for 8 hours a day once a week until Kline changes his mind and votes to defund our troops. That's the stated goal of the group, Dave, that's the point of the protest. From what I have seen, read and heard, your group has never been on the same page to begin with. By continually showing up to Kline's office with ever changing demands, you may not be demanding his time, but your taking up his time.
03/15/07 19:00
That's nice you wanted an interview Dave but get real your not a member of the press. Was your interview request, before or after you donated money to Coleen Rowley's campaign (a fact readily available from her FEC report)? You were actively involved in the campaign against Kline. In your blogs and letters to the editor you and others like you, attempt to portray yourselves as typical constituents, and your not. Kline's people exposed those type of individuals, and the fact that you refer to it as retaliation is yet another example of your delusion.

Your typical response is that you are being "smeared" so yes, if you think being a donor to Coleen Rowley's campaign is a "smear" I guess you're right youre being "smeared." But all the exposing is doing, is giving your readers additional facts so they can maker an informed decision.

Of course, you undersand that when its revealed that you are political operatives and partisan hacks, it marginalizes your message and brings your credibility into question. Well guess what, it should!
03/13/07 12:01
Eric, I have no doubt that Kline has time for you. I'm glad he listens to your views. But let me give you some examples of how Kline works. I have emailed Kline's office several times with no response. I gave up. I called his office during the campaign last year, to ask to talk to Marcus Esmay, one of his staffers. I wanted to get an interview with him. I left my name at the campaign office and at his congressional office, no calls were returned. Unfortunately, I can't afford to fly to Washington, DC....obviously that seems to help with appointments.
This group isn't asking him to take up his time with us, they are aware that a Congressman's time is valuable..they don't dispute that..they are simply asking him to hold a public forum on an important issue. Jim Ramstad holds forums all the time.
As for retaliation... name another Congress person whose staff writes letters to the editor to complain about individual constituents by name; Kline's office has done it 3 times in the last year. Name one other congress person who does that...
03/13/07 02:25
"Legitimate concerns of retaliation"? come on dave, give me a break. If people were really that afraid why would they even show up? If Kline's staff, has (as some of you looney lefties have claimed) secret files on people that oppose them, then why even risk it? To the average reader, it seems really strange and counter intuitive that these people didn't provide names. Are your secret sources really that afraid of their elected representative, or are you just using secret sources so that you can continue to fabricate quotes?

Secondly, how can you claim that Kline isnt open to "hear all voices"? Have any of you tried making an appointment, or consider that a Congressman probably is pretty busy (with running the country and all) and perhaps his job keeps him in Washington most of the time. Have any of you tried visiting him were he is? I was in DC just last week and was able to meet with his staff their about an issue of concern, oh and btw there was also a gay rights group their at the time, so they dont just make time for conservitives (hell, he met with you lefties, that should be proof enough he is open to hearing all voices)
03/12/07 18:57
Just a couple of comments for Eric. First of all, the people quoted in this piece have legitimate concerns of retaliation. One specifically asked me not to mention any names and the other person has had more than their share of unpleasant experiences from Kline's office. There were 40+ people there... the events can be corroborated; and I doubt Kline's staff would dispute the facts...just the conclusions. If Sutton would spend less time attacking the people involved with this and more time setting a concrete time frame for the town meeting he keeps saying can be arranged, this issue would be over, as far as his office is concerned.
Secondly, I won't speak for my wife's choice of words...but at the very least, Kline's office has stonewalled this situation. This doesn't need to be dragged on for 5 weeks. Maybe Kline really thinks everything is fine in Iraq... and that could certainly be true if the only people he will listen to are the defense lobbyists. But it would seem to me with an issue of this magnitude, a Congressional representative should be open to hear all voices. We all have a stake in this... and quite frankly, it isn't only Democrats who are concerned.
03/12/07 17:56
Dave, you're doing a disservice to your readers again. You quote anonymous sources who were at this meeting yet you don't reveal their names. I wonder why that is. It makes me (and any other readers you might have) wonder if you're telling the truth or making it up as you go. You did this a week or two ago when you put phrases in quotes from a meeting you did not attend and did not have recorded.


Your wife calls John Kline a "coward" for showing up and facing 55 protesters for 2 hours because it was "unannounced." If facing protesters for 2 hours "unannounced" makes John Kline a coward, what does that make the two people who attended the meeting last week at Kline's office whose identifications you have hidden?


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