When Carla asked me if I would care to attend an OI session with our two US senators’ staffs in Tacoma I jumped at the chance. It meant that I would be able to postpone a dental appointment I had for that day. I hate going to the dentist.
After the drive to Tacoma the four of us OI’ers met at Corina’s Coffee Shop to go over our “pitch.” This is when it became abundantly clear just how well-organized and savvy Carla is about these meetings. We divided up which of the “thank yous” and “asks” each of us would present. I was impressed by the level of understanding and passion of the others in the group.
We first met with Kierra Phifer, Senator Murray’s South Sound Regional Director. Kierra made us feel right at home and was primed to listen. It was pleasant to be able to extend to the senator so many thank yous for her efforts on a range of issues, from maintaining tough standards for off-shore drilling to protecting transgender people in the military to opposing many of the whacky Trump nominees for cabinet posts. It was fun to see Kierra light up when talking about their team’s tireless efforts over several years to obtain Capital Investment Grants financing for completing additions to the region’s light rail system, funding the eventual Tacoma Link and Lynnwood to Bothell Link. She relishes her job, and it shows.
Next we walked across the hall to Senator Maria Cantwell’s office to meet with her South Sound & Olympic Peninsula Outreach Director, Rosa McLeod. Here, likewise, we were well received. (Carla has done magnificent groundwork over the past 16 months, having taken over twenty visits to these offices with OI delegations.) Rosa helped to fill in some of the nitty-gritty details of how legislation occurs. For example, many tangentially-related issues get attached to the Farm Bill each year or two, because both political parties are heavily invested in making sure this vital legislation gets passed for the benefit of agriculture across the country. Senator Cantwell, as Rosa explained, has a list of funding priorities she is working on, such as dedicated dollars for fighting forest fires on federal lands, and expanding the Low Income Housing tax credit to provide much more affordable housing in the nation. It became apparent that Cantwell is a very hands-on and detail-oriented senator.
The result of this visit was to demonstrate to me that, even in these tough times of the Trump Administration, there are good, dedicated people working hard to make sure government continues to function, to provide services to citizens, and to advance far- sighted policies that keep the country moving ahead. They often toil behind the scenes, without much public acknowledgement. I don’t want to be a total apologist for the Democrats: I personally would like to see that party act more progressively: to grow a spine when it comes to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in hot spots around the world, and stand up to Trump’s ridiculous nominees for important government posts (to cite just two examples). I encourage all OI members to avail themselves of the chance to meet with our senators’ and congressman’s staffs, at least once. It proved to be a valuable civics lesson for me. And I got to avoid the dentist for another week!