Yesterday Nevada Congressional District 2 Representative Mark Amodei was in town for a “meet & greet”. Congressman Amodei won a special election in September after Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval appointed Congressman Dean Heller to take the Senate seat left vacant by Senator John Ensign’s April resignation.
This was my first opportunity to see Amodei in person, although he has been in town before. We had been told that staff members from his Reno and Washington offices would be here too. “Meet & greets” usually allow constituents to move around a room, talking with the visitors about various issues. I was surprised to arrive a little after the start time and find Rep. Amodei and his staff in front of rows of people, answering questions for all to hear.
In some ways, this was more interesting than what I’d expected. I had heard most of Amodei’s positions during the election campaign. This format gave me the chance to hear what issues most concern my community.
There was an extended discussion with Post Office employees about proposed Post Office closures. This is a big issue in rural areas. Besides laying off postal workers, residents in smaller communities could have their mail delayed. In some of these areas, there are few businesses that could serve as a postal station – so where do people buy their stamps, weigh packages, etc.?
One gentleman asked for Congressman Amodei’s opinion on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Amodei gave a comprehensive answer that covered some options, economic realities and political realities. It was interesting to learn that people in states that have nuclear facilities have paid fees on their utility bills for years to help fund a nuclear waste site. Now some localities are suing because after all they have paid, President Obama shut down the Yucca Mountain development program. According to Amodei, the outcome of this case may shape the future of Yucca Mountain more than anything else.
A student from the local middle school asked why gas prices are so high. This led to comments from the Congressman and the audience about the need to develop America’s energy resources. Amodei mentioned that it has been many years since any new oil refineries have been built in the US and that the permitting process for a refinery is much more complicated than permitting one of our area’s gold mines.
Additional comments covered a range of subjects: concerns about possible cuts to veterans’ benefits, government actions causing devaluation of the dollar, federal funding for abortion, and federal regulations making it difficult to run a business. Overall, there seemed to be great concern about the cost of government programs, the detrimental effects of these programs and questions about why the government is not taking care of other areas more important to citizens.
Congressman Amodei had some definite opinions on some issues, but seemed very willing to consider options on others. His staff was young, friendly and enthusiastic, especially considering they had been traveling and meeting constituents for two days. It was great that staff members from Washington came along – they need to experience the long distances between cities out West and see first-hand how rural Nevadans live.
Lately many decisions in Washington seem to be made more on the basis of politics than the needs of the average American. So I really appreciate that residents of smaller communities still have opportunities to express their concerns to their Congressional representatives personally.