A guest post from Cindy Garlock, a 1st District resident, who has been trying to set up a meeting with Congressman Rod Blum.
The November election left many of us in shock. In response to the Republican sweep of the federal and state government, a group of concerned Cedar Rapids citizens banded together to provide support to each other, but more importantly, to come up with ways to make our voices be heard in a chaotic political environment.
A group of folks who were brought together through Indivisible began weekly meetings at a Cedar Rapids coffee shop in early February. The primary focus of the group was to open and maintain communication channels with our US Congressman, Rod Blum. These gatherings encouraged discussion of state and federal issues, and then the group would walk over to Congressman Rod Blum’s office to deliver letters or to chat with the Congressman’s staffers.
Initially, we found the office door to be locked. A staffer came to the door, unlocked it, and we were permitted to hand our letters through a cracked doorway. There was a clipboard outside the door with a form we could fill out, detailing our questions or comments. After the appearance of the press and after continued calls to the office, we were eventually allowed to come in and meet with a staffer so that we could pass our concerns, ideas and opinions on to Congressman Blum. Our goal throughout the process has been a face-to-face meeting with our Congressman.
Those weekly meetings with the Congressman’s staffer continued until June. Since we didn’t appear to be getting any closer to a meeting with our Congressman, we chose to communicate with him and his staff through other methods as well. We requested a meeting via phone calls to his DC office and his Dubuque office. We wrote emails requesting a meeting. We wrote letters that were sent via the USPS. We requested a meeting via his website.
All of those requests were either ignored or denied to us by his staff through phone conversations. At about the same time as we were making these requests through other channels, we were informed that our weekly meeting with Congressman Blum’s staffer would be reduced to twice a month. Additionally, the meeting location would be moved to the Federal Courthouse in Cedar Rapids, where visitors must relinquish their cell phones and must also pass through airport like security.
One of our group was recently in Washington, DC and she also tried to make an appointment with Congressman Blum. That failed and her conversation with a DC staffer received a chilly reception.
Congressman Blum claims that he wants to hear from his constituents. In fact, here is a direct quote from his July 10 newsletter: “I learn so much from meeting with people across Eastern Iowa, and I look forward to continuing to travel the district in 2017 to listen to Iowans from all walks of life so I can represent you to the best of my ability.”
In fact, that exact same quote is found in his July 31st newsletter.
Our goal right now is to encourage Congressman Blum to have a meeting with us during the August recess, and we have been communicating that request to his staff for several weeks. We have been ignored. Apparently, the Congressman has sent mailers to folks in his district with a brief survey. None of us have received that mailer even though the Congressman has all of our contact information.
We interpret all of these action (or inactions) on his part to mean that he does not care about all of his District 1 constituents. He seemingly cares more about those folks who are more likely to agree with him. Not exactly listening “to Iowans from all walks of life.”
Since our elected representative refuses to meet with us, we have invited all of his Democratic challengers to meet with us. They are very eager to talk to us and we are very pleased to have them take time to meet with us so we can better understand their positions on important issues. We have given Congressman Blum so many invitations, so many opportunities and yet he fails to hear us. We will be presenting his offices with a petition in the near future, requesting that he, personally, hold office hours during the August recess. We are hoping that persistence pays off!
by Cindy Garlock