Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) met one-on-one with constituents Monday morning at the Wyandot County Courthouse.
“I think it’s very important to be able to hear from the constituents and in some cases when my staff’s in (the meetings) too, we can open up cases for people,” Latta said. “When folks come in and they have an issue that deals with a committee that I serve on, we can get that information and start working it out for them. If they’ve got a Social Security or Medicare or some other type of problem, we can get that started, or if they just want to vent. Folks like to be able to sit down one-on-one because I’m a representative and that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do is represent the people out there.”
The public was invited to talk to Latta about whatever issues they wanted.
“I really appreciated (being able to meet with Latta),” Upper Sandusky resident J.E. Kinley said.
“When you look at how our government is designed, a congressman is someone that has to be responsible and accountable to the people,” added Harpster resident William “Bill” Clinger, who will be running for a seat on the Wyandot County Board of Commissioners in November. “I think this local contact with the people helps him be more in touch with what the concerns are in the community and it’s a chance for us to give him feedback.”
The meetings were conducted behind closed doors in the courthouse assembly room. After his meeting with Latta, Harpster resident Fred Reid said he talked to the congressman about plans to close the Harpster Post Office, which could happen later this month.
“With Congressman Latta, I expressed the concerns of all of us in the Harpster community about the prospect of the post office being closed because there are so many needs for the services that can’t be handled adequately other than having a local post office there,” Reid said.
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to visit with Congressman Latta,” Reid added. “He certainly is a personable individual and understanding of what the issues are.”
Latta said others talked about the Labor Department’s plans to back away from its pursuit of legislation that would prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from operating dangerous farm machinery after receiving complaints from farmers and lawmakers in rural states, which was discussed in an article on the front page of Saturday’s Daily Chief-Union.
“The best thing that I can tell folks that came out of that was not that we got it stopped, but we’re demonstrating to the American people that if they start calling and writing to government, sometimes they will listen,” Latta said. “I have a lot of people tell me, ‘There’s no reason to do anything because no one’s going to listen to me,’ and in this case it was thousands of people from around the country and around the state of Ohio and even kids in 4-H, FFA, farm kids saying, ‘You can’t do this because this is our way of life’ and they finally figured it out in Washington that the folks back home actually knew what they were talking about.”
Following his one-on-one meetings with the public, Latta sat down with The Daily Chief-Union to answer questions about the Environmental Protection Agency. Upper Sandusky built a new $12 million water plant last year and Sycamore plans to break ground on a new $2 million plant later this year, both to meet new EPA requirements.
“Everybody, I don’t care where you’re from in the United States, we’re all for clean air and we’re all for clean water, but you’ve got to remember that they can’t keep up the standards to a point that we can’t afford to do some of these projects,” Latta said. “We also have to understand that some of these projects, as expensive as they are, that a small community can’t afford to do it. They’ve got to give them more leeway. That’s why I have legislation out there. One would be to say that you would be able to go from 20 to 30 years on some of these projects to spread them out farther. To be able to say to the state like revolving loan funds, that they get money from the federal side for communities under 10,000 (people) to be able to get more of the money out there because these smaller communities, they are the ones that are hurting and they need help.
“Washington needs to understand, especially the bureaucrats, that the folks back home aren’t out there being polluters or anything else,” Latta added. “They’re trying to do everything they possibly can to comply, but they’ve got to realize that they can’t make the standards so strict that it’s almost impossible to be able to do it.”
Both Upper Sandusky and Sycamore were forced to raise water rates to pay for the projects.
“We don’t want to drive people out of our small towns because they say, ‘Well I can’t afford this water or sewer bill,’” Latta said. “Then you end up with folks that might be older or in a situation where they can’t move, so it’s like, well now what do you do? Then you have fewer people able to pay (the increased rates), which makes it almost impossible to get these projects done.”
Latta also talked about the federal deficit.
“On the federal side, we’re staring at about a $15 trillion debt right now and this year, if we’re lucky, we’re going to spend about $226 billion just on interest payments alone,” he said. “When I say lucky, that number just escalates up to about $625 billion within 10 years, so we just all have to really watch where the dollars are going.”
Latta said he has been holding conferences with the public in all 16 counties in the district that he represents since taking office in December 2007. He also held meetings in Tiffin yesterday, before moving on to Fremont and Norwalk for more meetings today.
“When we get back (to Washington D.C.), we’re usually always asked, ‘What did you hear back home?’ and what I can tell folks is I sat through so many hours in each county listening to folks and hearing what their concerns are,” Latta said. “I can really have a good perspective of what we need to be doing in Washington to help people back here at home.”
By CHANDA NEELY