CENTREVILLE — A slate of state issues were on tap for Jesse Colvin, Democratic candidate for Maryland’s First Congressional District, at a town hall meeting at the Queen Anne’s County Library in Centreville Monday, Oct. 8.
The meeting, attended by more than 60 voters across the political spectrum, was standing room only as they asked the challenger questions on such issues as the environment, economic development, affordable housing, health care, education, traffic and immigration.
“We need more politicians that don’t like the sound of their own voice,” said Colvin. “We need people to join our movement to make an informed decision. That includes phone banking and going out to the community. It’s not enough to be against something, we have to be for something as well.”
Leading off were concerns about the hospital in Chestertown and access to a full range of care without having to be transferred to facilities in Easton or Annapolis.
Colvin was quick to note the long commutes for patients and families means losing precious time that should be earmarked for care. A sign of a broken health care system on the Eastern Shore, he said, is the increased consolidation of hospital systems.
“If you talk to people in the hospitals, they’ll tell you it’s numerous issues behind the problems with area health care. We need people to stay in Queen Anne’s County with jobs and broadband. We need young people to stay and have children here so hospitals can have a consistent population,” Colvin said.
Colvin embarked Oct. 1 on a comprehensive schedule of visits to 12 counties in 12 days — each of the counties that make up the First Congressional District. The town hall meeting was the end of a busy schedule in Queen Anne’s County that included meeting with the local Watermen’s Association; a visit to Hydrasearch, a manufacturing company in the Chesapeake Bay Business Park; and lunch at a the Commerce Street Creamery in Centreville.
Colvin suggested placing a new district office in the VA outpatient facility in Cambridge, citing the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 veterans in the district he hoped would not have to navigate a bureaucracy from a long distance away.
Dealing with the opioid epidemic includes knowing the data, he said. Citing that fatalities in Maryland’s First Congressional District are 50 percent higher than the national average, bucking the trend means intervening in cases where an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 children are growing up in homes where opioids are being used regularly.
With an estimated 54,000 individuals in the district with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Colvin said dealing with medical bills must be affordable even with pre-existing conditions.
Associated with tenuous financial circumstances are a reported 37 percent of families in the county on the cusp of poverty if a costly emergency should occur.
With many of those in question making their living as watermen or in associated industries, Colvin said he wants to reach 10 billion oysters in Chesapeake Bay by 2025 through conservation efforts.
“It will do fantastic things for the environment and do even better things for the economy. That is a way of life and is in the DNA of this area,” said Colvin.
When asked about his position on school safety and national security, Colvin took aim at incumbent Andy Harris and his steadfast support of the National Rifle Association. He noted even with nearly 100 candidates nationwide being veterans, many are running as Democrats who support both gun rights and gun reform legislation.
“If you think Congress could and should play a role in reducing gun violence, you have two groups of people there. The first are those that recognize there’s a problem and want to figure it out and the others are those in the back pocket of the NRA who deflect the debate,” Colvin said.
Also addressed was comprehensive immigration reform with a question about bipartisan efforts. Colvin said that such legislation needs to include security at the southern border, sensitivity about the nation’s identity as a destination for an immigrant workforce in terms of H-2B visas, political will by the powers that be, and building relationships with those affected by the economic repercussions.
Colvin cited Harris’ lack of proactive measures in securing the required number of seasonal work visas before the fishing industry felt the financial pinch.
On the topic of financial shortcomings at the state and federal level, Colvin decried the recently passed Republican budget. He said any major slashes to funding in education or economic development destabilizes a workable tax base.
“We need more politicians who know what a balance sheet is, and we need new tax reform that’s far from what we received. We also need to revisit the Department of Defense because of waste within it. We need to stop equating one’s patriotism with how much they give to the DOD,” said Colvin.
Among the federal departments hit hardest by budget cuts was the Environmental Protection Agency, which has come to the forefront in the debate of a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
With an estimated 80 percent of chemicals and debris stemming from Pennsylvania and other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Colvin concluded with noting the impacts on the economy.
“The EPA under its previous and current leadership don’t believe in its mission and if we’re ever going to tackle the Conowingo Dam, the only referee can be the EPA and people within the federal delegation to build real relationships,” he said.