Rep. Bergman staff makes stop in Manistee

Voicing their opinion about U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, two residents picket on Friday outside the Manistee County Library. (Ashlyn Korienek / News Advocate)

Voicing their opinion about U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, two residents picket on Friday outside the Manistee County Library. (Ashlyn Korienek / News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Citizens from around the Manistee County area gathered at the Manistee County Library on Friday to share concerns with U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, as part of the May Mobile Office Hours.

However, many constituents were surprised to find out he would not be in attendance.

The event was hosted by Melanie Collinsworth, director of Michigan operations, who also came to Manistee March 30 for office hours. The event is intended to give citizens a voice with staff members who are trained to help.

Before the meeting began, people were stationed at 9:30 a.m. on the corner of Maple and First streets holding picket signs questioning Bergman about his legislative positions.

“We are frustrated Bergman has not had a town hall meeting here in Manistee or in the area,” said Gary Madden, Manistee County Democratic Party chair. “We just wanted to express our position and the idea that affordable health care is a basic human right.”

With more than 15 people in attendance, Collinsworth declined answering a number of questions asked during the session, but took note of concerns voiced by each resident.

Bergman is the representative for Michigan’s 1st District, which is second largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River. When asked why he has not made an appearance in the area with a town hall meeting, Collinsworth referred constituents to request a meeting with him online.

“He is not making himself available to everyone in the district,” one participant said. “He is not accessible.”

Another participant stressed the amount of emails she has addressed to Bergman, yet no formal reply has come about.

“I can’t believe he is not here,” she said. “I have tried so many times to contact him. I have sent so many emails and have gotten nothing back.”

In response to these concerns, Farahn Morgan, spokesperson for Bergman, told the News Advocate Bergman has a multitude of requests and is currently working through those in a timely manner.

“Congressman Bergman is eager to hear from his constituents and takes constituent input seriously,” said Morgan. “Like most congressional offices, we receive hundreds of pieces of correspondence each day. D.C. and district staff work hard to track comments and make sure that the congressman has seen and understood constituent concerns.”

During the meeting, many residents shared thoughts about health care, environmental protection and education.

Norma Stewart, a Manistee resident, questioned the American Health Care Act of 2017, a Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the American Health Care Act on May 4.

Currently, the bill is in the Senate for deliberation.

“With the current health care bill Bergman voted for, a lot of people will be in trouble,” Stewart said. “The current health care plan could be worked on, not destroyed. And with all of these pre-existing conditions, who is actually going to be covered in this plan.”

Another topic at large was the United States Environmental Protection Agency budget cuts, as constituents asked Bergman to support the future of sustainability.

“I don’t want to go back to the day where the government doesn’t have to enforce clean water,” one attendee said. “We need to protect the environment. We cannot deny Climate Change any longer.”

Bergman has three office locations, including Washington D.C., Marquette and Traverse City. To contact Bergman and his staff, visit bergman.house.gov for the email forum or call one of his office locations.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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