Larsen, residents discuss concerns
In a green button down shirt, jeans and boat shoes, Representative Rick Larsen visited Blaine on Saturday afternoon to discuss issues of concerns with local residents.
�I want to tell you how fortunate I feel to serve in Congress. All that I can rely on is the work I do and the work that the people in the office do,� Larsen said. �We�re about as far northwest as you can get from Washington D.C., so it�s important for me to get out here and see what�s happening. And let you have a whack at me,� he continued, the audience laughing.
For an hour and a half, about 40 residents talked with Larsen at Blaine city hall, mostly focusing on large issues such as homeland security, veteran services, the federal budget, the Patriot Act and foreign policy, but also touching on the wastewater treatment plant and border issues.
The first question Larsen addressed from the audience pertained to local sewer issues and assistance with funding. �Budgeting is about nothing else but choice,� Larsen said. �Blaine has the first or second highest rates in the state,� he said, noting the city would likely receive some form of assistance.
The state budget, Larsen said, and the federal budget are both in crisis, therefore hurting much needed services, such as veterans support. The government is planning to cut $28 billion from veteran services, and although veterans are dying at a rate of about 1,500 per day, there will be more veterans in the future, based on current government actions, he said.
With that statement, the conversation was directed towards border, homeland security and foreign policy issues. With Blaine�s location on the U.S.-Canadian border, Larsen said, the community deals directly with border and homeland security much more than other communities.
�The security of the people across this country starts here in Blaine,� he said, adding that local people should be allowed to continue to take advantage of the NEXUS program during this time of increased security. �Blaine is the number one user of the NEXUS program. It�s important to me to keep a focus on our needs at the border,� he said.
As increased security is a part of today�s society, several residents questioned Larsen about the Patriot Act. �The government rushed in passing it because they felt a need to do something for the American people after September 11,� he said. �Congress acted too quickly. There was no time to ask real questions. There was a collective psyche to do something.�
Larsen stated that certain things need to be retracted from the Patriot Act, including library and sneak and peek provisions. Currently, he said, the government has the right to view your reading materials taken out from a local library.
Attorney General John Ashcroft is pushing for a Patriot Act 2, he said, to the dismay of several in the room. �He (Ashcroft) wants his dessert, but he hasn�t finished his brussel sprouts. And we may even need to take away his brussel sprouts.�
On the foreign policy front, and the current state of Iraq, Larsen told the audience that the American government would like to see a democracy established in Iraq.
�They (the government) can pick democracy, but only the democracy they see fit,� he said. �As far as peacekeeping, the U.S. doesn�t peacekeep great, it does well. The United Nations is better fit for that.�
Discussion then changed to foreign policy and the amount of money given to other countries. �The total foreign aid budget is less than one percent of the total budget,� he said. �We should really use foreign aid for certain things like education, healthcare and economic development.�
Larsen, who stopped in Blaine as part of a weekend of visits through Whatcom and Skagit counties, left city hall at 1:30 p.m. Saturday to make a 2 p.m. appointment, but encouraged those with questions and comments to contact his office.
�The strength of our democracy depends on all of you showing up on Saturday at noon when it�s sunny out. Thank you.�
As he was leaving, several residents rallied around him, expressing their support for a presidential run.
Larsen can be reached via email, at email@example.com. Other contacts include the office number at 202/225-2605, fax number at 202/225-4420 and mailing address of 1529 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515-4702. His web address is www.house.gov/larsen.