Posted: 03/08/07 06:05
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.