Nebraska’s First District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is convening townhall meetings during Congress’ August recess.
We at GiN have long believed that Mr. Fortenberry should be replaced with an actual limited government representative because the evidence shows that he cannot be described as such. As Linda wrote in a September 2011 article, Fortenberry…
“…spends money like nobody’s business while, simultaneously, talking about how he’s leading the charge in Congress to restore fiscal responsibility.
and, he also…
Chairs the U.S. House Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry, which, until recently, had jurisdiction over nutrition programs, including the food stamp program. In his capacity as chair of that subcommittee, he created the impression on at least one “telephone townhall” he held that I “attended” that he’s comfortable, to some extent, with the government telling people what, and what not, to eat;
Has voted to increase taxes.”
Note that I left out one of Linda’s of list items – see suggested issue #3 about which to question Jeff Fortenberry, below.
Isn’t there something in Eccelesiasties about there being nothing new under the sun? If the scriptures don’t do it for you, how about that old saying about a leopard and his spots? We see evidence that one Mr. Fortenberry hasn’t changed in the last twelve months.
But, alas, there was no viable opponent in the primary election. Of course we do not want an even more liberal representative from Nebraska for District 1 and unless a stellar write-in candidate with adequate support pops up in the next five minutes, looks like we’re stuck with Mr. Fortenberry until 2014.
In lieu of removing Fortenberry from office, we think we need to…
1) Regularly point out to people in District 1 in Nebraska that their representative is NOT a limited government advocate just because he has an “R” behind his name
2) Highlight particularly absurd policies he supports
3) Encourage constituents to regularly apply pressure to the Congressman in the unlikely event he will be pushed away from absurd votes
4) Encourage constituents to go shopping for a better representative next election time
FULL SCHEDULE OF TOWNHALLS
Monday, August 8
Lincoln Town Hall Meeting
Southeast Community College – Room U102
8800 O Street
Tuesday, August 9
Wahoo Town Hall Meeting
Wahoo Public Library
637 N Maple Street
Schuyler Town Hall Meeting
Schuyler City Office
1103 B Street
Wednesday, August 10
Norfolk Town Hall Meeting
Northeast Community College – Lifelong Learning Center
801 E Benjamin Avenue
Fremont Town Hall Meeting
Fremont City Auditorium
925 North Broad Street
Tuesday, August 16
Blair Town Hall Meeting
Blair City Hall
218 South 16th Street
West Point Town Hall Meeting
Nielsen Community Center
200 Anna Stalp Avenue
Wednesday, August 17
Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker Address and Discussion
Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center
313 North 13th Street
At the bottom of this article, we have embedded several videos from last year’s Lincoln townhall during which Rep. Fortenberry was questioned by constituents. (Yes, you will definitely recognize one of those constituents.) Even if you do not have any questions for Mr. Fortenberry at this time, attending one of his townhall meetings is an educational experience, generally.
If you are familiar with Fortenberry’s spending record, etc., and would like a couple of issues about which he should be presented with questions, here are a few we think are worth considering:
1) The 2011 “Debt Deal” – how DID that Super Committee thing work out for us?
Mr. Fortenberry supported an increase in the debt ceiling and the creation of what was commonly referred to as the “Super Congress”.
The bill supported by Fortenberry was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which…
- Increased the debt ceiling from $14.294 trillion to $16.394 trillion
- Created the Congressional Joint Select Committee (“Super Congress”) – a subset of handpicked members of Congress
- Required the Joint Select Committee to produce legislation for budget cuts of $1.5 trillion (over the course of 10 years) by November 23, 2011 OR mandatory, specified cuts would go into effect automatically
- The debt ceiling WAS increased (the limit is now maxed out again)
- “Super Congress” did NOT produce the required legislation
- The mandatory cuts are set to go into effect
“Super Congress” was very questionable from a Constitutional perspective – it disenfranchised all but 12 members of Congress
See the GiN article, below, about this subject for additional detail and the third video of questions asked at last year’s townhall meeting:
2) Fortenberry’s “Global Conservation Act of 2012” H.R. 6038
NOTE: We have not had the opportunity to review much information about this bill – noting, however, first, the name and explanatory text of the bill itself, and just one group supporting it, the whole thing sounds very “Agenda 21-ish” / “green”. We were alerted to its introduction by Nancy Carr (thanks, Nancy) in a forwarded email. We will look things over in more detail as time allows. Reportedly, Mr. Fortenberry has been questioned by one concerned constituent about the legislation and its problems, including that its policy resembled Agenda 21 / Sustainable Development policy and Mr. Fortenberry explained that care was taken to avoid such language. We confess, we’re truly puzzled as to what that might mean…was that a question of rhetoric or actual content and policy???
Full text of the bill HERE
Explanatory text: “To strengthen the role of the United States in the international community of nations in conserving natural resources to further global prosperity and security.”
Senate version of the bill, introduced by Rob Portman of Ohio HERE
Among the questions worth asking, one might be – do we NEED to be doing this at all, ever, of course, but especially NOW?
3) Support for Amtrak
At last year’s townhall, the Congressman stated that he supports Amtrak, as Linda wrote in September 2011:
“Thinks that, even though the U.S. government is losing money hand over fist by subsidizing AmTrak, a national rail system that makes a positive return on its operations in only one region of the country — the Northeast, “the country has to have a national rail system” and he dismisses the possibility that the operation should be privatized;”
What follows here is a lot of information Shelli compiled about advocacy for passenger rail systems last year, both within Nebraska and nationally. The information includes a number of links to articles and studies about the failure of Amtrak, at the bottom, and also points out, generally, the overall policy philosophies of groups and organizations who support public rail projects.
To underline the relevance of the information we’ve included about this issue, note that the first group mentioned, below, ProRail Nebraska, is trumpeting the recent opening of the new Amtrak station in Lincoln, featuring the following photo:
A Nebraska group is advocating for the development of rail passenger service throughout the state and is pushing for Nebraska to take a more active role in the Midwest Interstate Rail Compact.
ProRail Nebraska has been convening meetings in Lincoln for some time now, although how long is not particularly clear. The group’s objectives, as summarized on its site are as follows:
ProRail Nebraska Statement of Objectives – ProRail Nebraska exists to advocate for improved passenger rail transportation serving Nebraska. It is an affiliate of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), which advocates passenger rail service on a national basis. Our current projects are:
* Encourage Nebraska to take a more active role in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.
* Improve service and ridership of Amtrak’s California Zephyr across Nebraska.
* Advocate commuter rail service between Omaha and Lincoln.
* Advocate establishing Amtrak service between Omaha and Kansas City.
* Advocate establishing a Department of Public Transportation in Nebraska State Government. Nebraska is the only state that has no Department of Transportation, just a Dept. of Roads.
Additional detail and narrative can be found in the group’s September 18, 2008 “Statement of objectives”. (If your browser automatically downloads PDFs and you would prefer to view the statement within your browser, click HERE.)
As noted in the group’s list of objectives, ProRail Nebraska is a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. NARP’s About & Contact page state’s the organization’s mission: “The mission of the National Association of Railroad Passengers is to work for a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want.” The What’s New page is likely the most informative as to the group’s activities and positions.
An illuminating sample statement from January of 2010:
We commend the Obama administration for its historic commitment of $8 billion toward “ready-to-go” passenger train projects, investments that “promise to bring Americans freedom to choose an attractive alternative to crowded highways and airports” and “stimulate economic development in on-line communities.”
In addition to ProRail Nebraska’s membership in the NARP, it is also a member of Transportation for America, which notes on it’s About the Campaign page:
“Transportation for America has formed a broad coalition of housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations. We’re all seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development.”
TA’s The Platform page lists recommendation for Congress to include in the next transportation bill. Among them are calls for rewarding “smart land use” in “more sustainable ways”. The group says we can no longer afford “to sink money into highway lanes” that are “overwhelmed or undermined by poorly planned development”.
I was a bit on my guard when I first landed on Transportation for America’s site. The group is currently advocating for particular action from Congress (more spending, of course). In the upper right hand corner of the site, I saw this counter:
I know I am not alone in my concern regarding the frequent use of the word “transformational”, particularly the phrase “transformational change” since the 2008 Presidential campaign. Columnist Patrick McIlheran summarizes what transformational change usually means in the title of his October 31, 2008 editorial, “Transformational change usually means getting lunch from the Red Cross”.
Transformational change, then, as Mr. McIheran sees it, is something like when a hurricane, tornado, or flood just swept through your town, your house is gone and it’s kind of hard to make yourself a sandwich. Yeah. Town = transformed.
Transformational change in government means we need to become something different from what we are.
So what a “transformational” bill in transportation mean? Apparently, we need to transform our transportation system.
And that is what brings us to the point behind rail advocacy, at least for groups like Transportation for America, and their Nebraska member, ProRail Nebraska. Apparently, for these groups, the goal is to transform the American transportation from what it is; overwhelmingly based on individual Americans driving and owning their own cars.
And, Americans really do love their cars. Call us crazy I suppose, but I think of it as a form of independence and a freedom of movement. Seems like it fits our unique character. We are not France, Germany, or Japan. And we don’t want to transform into them.
That’s the basic premise.
Wikipedia’s Amtrak page Sections of particular interest: Pre-Amtrak, Privately operated passenger rail service, Public Funding, Controversy
Public Purpose, 2006: DUMP THE RHETORIC: Transit’s Misleading Public Relations Campaign
About.com, 2005: Amtrak Dying, Sec. Mineta Says
Mackinac Policy Center, 2002: Amtrak, The Federal Government’s Own Corporate Financial Scandal
Public Purpose, 1996: Amtrak: How to Rescue US Passenger Rail from Government Failure
Culture of Corruption: Who’s policing Amtrak Joe Biden’s $53 billion rail boondoggles?
February 9, 2011
Rails Won’t Save America, 2008, Randal O’Toole, CATO Institute Briefing Paper
IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND A TOWNHALL – CONSIDERING CONTACTING THE CONGRESSMAN:
301 South 13th Street, Suite 100
Lincoln, NE 68508
p (402) 438-1598
t (866) 725-5255
f (402) 438-1604
125 S. 4th Street, Suite 101
Norfolk, NE 68701
p (402) 379-2064
f (402) 379-2101
P.O. Box 377
629 Broad Street
Fremont, NE 68026
p (402) 727-0888
VIDEOS FROM AUGUST 2011 TOWNHALL
Our theme song for Mr. Fortenberry…(if you don’t like the song…then let’s get a replacement Congressman…)