Rep. Bergman to hold town hall events

BERGMAN

MARQUETTE — U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, will hold two public town hall meetings this week in the 1st district, allowing constituents on both sides of the bridge a chance to ask questions of the freshman congressman.

The first one will take place from 7-8 p.m. Wednesday at Bay de Noc Community College, at 2001 N. Lincoln Road in Escanaba.

The other will be from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Ellison Place, at 150 Dale Drive in Gaylord.

Bergman’s press release says the events are part of a district-wide listening tour that will include town halls, in-district office hours, one-on-one meetings with constituents and Facebook Live and telephone town hall events.

Bergman said in a phone interview he chose those locations because of their geographic centrality.

“We wanted to find, not only the right size venue, but an area where people from across the district could all kind of have an equal shot of driving to,” Bergman said.

The first congressional district is the second-largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River by land area, behind Maine’s 2nd congressional district, Bergman noted.

Democrat Anne Stark of Marquette had planned a town hall event in Marquette last week and promoted it on social media, but canceled after Bergman announced this week’s events.

She said she’s glad these events will largely accomplish her goal of allowing constituents to meet Bergman face to face.

Ahead of Stark’s event, she said she sent Bergman three registered letters, as well as other letters and post cards, and called all of his offices multiple times to invite him, but received no response accepting or declining the invitation.

Bergman said he couldn’t have been available the Thursday before Easter.

“Quite honestly, one of the reasons we scheduled our town halls the way we did was to allow everyone who chose to, to celebrate the Easter season in the way they chose to. And basically regardless, if someone would’ve asked me, was I available Thursday, Friday through Sunday of this week, of Easter week, I would’ve told them ‘no,’ because my family and I celebrate the resurrection of Christ,” Bergman said. “So the point is, I’m spending it with family renewing our faith.”

Stark also called Bergman’s reason for the town hall locations “baloney,” arguing he should hold events in the population centers of Traverse City and Marquette.

“I think his perception is they’re less friendly to him, because there are more Democrats in those areas,” Stark said. “So he’s moving them to areas where I think he probably feels he’s got more support.”

Stark said she has a long list of questions for Bergman relating to his voting record and future voting intentions.

Democrat Bill Jorns, 78, said as a veteran, he has questions about the impact of cuts in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which cuts funding for numerous programs and federal departments while giving the military a $52 billion boost.

Jorns said eliminating Meals on Wheels, a meal delivery service for senior citizens, would be devastating for tens of thousands of Michigan veterans.

“The vets who gave up legs and arms and everything else are getting literally screwed over by this, plus millions of others,” Jorns said.

Bergman said regarding budget cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels, that these are tough times, and we have to consider what should be funded by states and localities instead of the federal government.

“The federal government is excellent at doing one-size-fits-all programs and which then no size fits anyone, and that’s not a good thing, because that’s where resources get wasted,” Bergman said.

Regarding the increase in military spending, Bergman, a retired 3-star Marine general, said American citizens are safe and secure because the country has a strong and ready military.

“Over the last eight years, while the military has been deployed around the world, they’ve also suffered a great decline in readiness (and) equipment capabilities, so by the president requesting more money for defense, it bodes well for the average citizen because we’re (going to) have a strong defense,” Bergman said. “We’ve seen daily examples of why it’s so important that the U.S. be strong and be able to, you know, protect the citizens.”

Stark said her hopes at the town hall are for calm, meaningful and respectful dialogue.

“While I might not agree with Bergman’s views or his stance on various issues, he’s my elected official, and I respect the work and I thank him for his service in the military,” Stark said. “I think we have the possibility of working very well together if he can let down his guard a little bit and just be himself. … I’m optimistic and hopeful that this can be a really productive two years.”

Bergman said the entire freshman class of the 115th congress signed a commitment to civil discourse, which he hopes others will agree to follow.

“That is both Republicans and Democrats, of which there are 54 of us, early in our tenure agreed and authored a letter called a commitment to stability,” Bergman said. “While we may disagree fervently on a point, … we will argue it, we will debate it, but we are not going to attack one another. … I would hope and expect all of those folks who will take the time to come to our town halls to honor that same commitment to civility, because we want to hear what people have to say. … I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at the town hall.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.