Rep. hears from residents
Economy, job loss, health care on minds of taxpayers at Daley's 'office hours'
|Joe and Sue Sam of Imlay Township make a point to Rep. Kevin Daley regarding their concerns about treatment and red tape that routinely face veterans who seek or need medical assistance at VA hospitals. photo by Tom Wearing.|
April 01, 2009IMLAY CITY — State Rep. Kevin Daley got an earful of concerns, suggestions and requests from his constituents during a stop at the Silver Grill restaurant Friday afternoon.
Daley was on hand for what he hopes will be a continuum of special Monday and Friday office hours, during which he will meet directly with Lapeer County residents.
Elected to the 82nd District House seat last November, Daley said he was surprised that so many people turned out to meet and speak with him at a pair of public sessions last week.
"People had told me nobody shows up for these things," said Daley, who went beyond the designated time to accommodate an unexpectedly large crowd in Imlay City.
For nearly two hours, Daley sat down at tables, listening to residents' concerns and frustrations and tried to offer them some hope and encouragement.
"Some of these people just want someone to listen to them," Daley said. "There are so many difficult issues and concerns out there. They know and I know we can't solve all of them, but we can try."
Noting Lapeer County's recently reported unemployment rate of 17 percent, Daley believes that estimate could be lower than the actual number.
"That was from a month ago," he said. "I think we're probably closer to 20- or 21-percent unemployment. The high turnout at these meetings reflects what is going on in the economy right now."
Attica resident Lisa Bollman was among those who hoped their words and requests wouldn't fall on deaf ears.
On Jan. 19, Bollman lost her position at L&L Products in Romeo after 12 years on the job. Not only did she sacrifice her income, her medical insurance, which had been paying for ongoing treatments and medications for kidney disease and heart problems, was also lost.
"I've gone everywhere for help and I've exhausted my options," said Bollman. "I have pre-existing conditions and I can't afford to pay for Cobra, even with (President) Obama's new 65 percent coverage plan. It would still cost me $300 a month out of pocket. I can't afford it."
Bollman said efforts to get assistance from HDS and HDC resulted in very little help. She applied for food stamps, which is netting her an extra $30 a month.
"I'm between a rock and a hard place," said Bollman. "I emailed Kevin (Daley) about my situation. He called me right back and listened to my problem. He said he couldn't promise anything but his response was helpful and heartfelt. He said he would look into it and try to do what he can."
Cindy Asselin of Imlay Township presented Daley with another type of problem, but one that has been equally frustrating for her.
After moving into the township with her late husband in 2000, she recently discovered a property tax snafu that has resulted in her paying too much tax during those years.
"The township corrected it on the spot," said Asselin, "but now I'm seeking to be compensated for all the overage we paid. Kevin now knows about the situation and he's going to try to do something about it."
A public smoking ban was on the mind of Almont Township resident Stan Denek, an outspoken advocate for Smoke Free Michigan.
Denek said he urged Daley to support a blanket curb on smoking in public places.
"I'd like to see this state go smoke-free and join the 37 other states that have already done the same," said Denek. "Seventy-eight percent of residents don't want it, but the legislature doesn't want to buck the system or the Restaurant Association. This is a very serious health issue. We want to keep smoking out of public places."
Vicki Meiburg, Senior Director of Ambulatory Services at Marlette Hospital, was seeking Daley's advice regarding the application for and distribution of federal stimulus money for a major "shovel-ready" project at the hospital.
"We want to bring some of that money to real projects here in rural Michigan," said Meiburg, who has been busy resourcing information about meeting the criteria for receipt of stimulus funding.
"He (Kevin Daley) has helped us figure out the process to apply for funding," she said. "Some people are already getting it, but we're just waiting. Now we need to know what we have to do to further plead our case and get some of this money."
Local veterans advocates Joe and Susan Sam sought Daley's help in ensuring that red tape and government bureaucracy don't stand in the way of veterans receiving needed medical care.
"There's a culture that still exists among the people working in our VA hospitals," said Joe Sam, a Vietnam veteran. "Too many veterans' documents and claims are being shredded or getting lost in the system. People are not receiving the care they deserve. We're seeking a hearing to address this issue."
Many of those in attendance acknowledged Daley's accessibility and the time he spent individually with each of them.
"I appreciate that Rep. Daley was here himself and not just one of his staffers," said Meiburg. "He seems to care and wants to keep his finger on the pulse of the community."
Denek agreed, even if his and other residents' requests meet with futility.
"This forum is most valuable and I wish these meetings could be done more frequently," said Denek. "At least we feel like we're being heard — even if they don't do anything about it."
From Bollman's perspective, a sympathetic ear from her state representative offers some ray of hope.
"People from these agencies keep telling me I need to contact my representative, so that's what I did," said Bollman. "I really don't know what to do anymore. That's why I came here to talk to Kevin."
Rep. Kevin Daley can be reached at his Lansing office by calling 517-373-1800, or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.