Wages, climate change, immigration, underfunded education and the next president were among many topics Congresswoman Haley Stevens touched upon in a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Milford.
A few hundred people attended the event at Milford High School in which the representative for the 11th District, which includes communities in western Wayne and Oakland counties, addressed written concerns submitted by constituents and presented to her by staff members.
As a member of the House Committee on Education & Labor as well as the Committee on Space, Science, & Technology, Stevens spoke with particular passion on the “Rebuilding America’s Schools Act,” which would restore funding to education, and the “Raise the Wage Act” in which the minimum wage would be raised in gradual steps to $15 an hour by 2024.
“The question we all ask in America is should you be working full-time but making minimum wage and living in poverty?” Stevens said “I have been working on a 21st century labor movement… We need to find a way to regrow the middle class.”
Stevens also discussed the under-funding of schools, as well as safety and the need to address gun violence just days after the 1-year anniversary of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting in which 17 people were killed and 17 more injured by a gunman.
While she said she respects responsible gun owners and hunters, Stevens said assault rifles have had their day and it’s time to do things differently, including jailing those who lie on background checks.
Stevens called healthcare a major crisis in the U.S., and denounced 60 percent cuts to the National Institute of Health. Reductions should come in the cost of prescription drugs, she added, but also advocated being economically responsible for advancing healthcare plans as the U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt and nears a $1 trillion deficit.
For the first time, climate science was discussed during the house science committee on which Stevens is a member, including how climate change can be discussed without a backlash from voters.
Stevens expressed frustration with lack of enforcement of Environmental Protection Agency rules and lack of expertise and open positions from those supposed to be charged with protecting the environment, some of which she attributes to the persons put into those roles by President Donald Trump.
The environment is not the only area of disagreement Stevens has with Trump. While she acknowledged “20 years of extreme dysfunction” in immigration policies need to be fixed, she wants a better visa process, not a border wall.
“If you are paying taxes, playing by the rules, we want to give you a path to citizenship,” she said. “This is what this country is all about. Instead, we have a fake emergency for a wall that won’t even solve the problem.”
Stevens is hoping a Democrat will be elected president in 2020, replacing Trump. But asked who she would support as that candidate in an already crowded field, she dodged the final question at the town hall.
“We want to elect a new president,” she said, smiling to applause. “I am listening for common sense, pragmatism, and who is talking about manufacturing, who is protecting the value of work, not talking down to the Midwest. For too long, people have taken us for granted.”
“We can’t elect anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change,” said Dennis Jones, a Waterford resident and Vietnam veteran who attended the town hall and praised Stevens for “being on the ball” regarding that issue. He also liked her focus on healthcare and support for the Affordable Care Act.
“I am 100% disabled and haven’t had any problems with the VA, but I do care about other people,” he said.
Brian Howell, 37, of White Lake, said he liked the consistency of Stevens’ message, and said she balanced issues well, not focusing on just one. Environment is a concern for Howell, and he also noted Stevens is on a task force regarding gun violence. While he is a gun owner and supports the Second Amendment, he said gun violence is a problem and he is curious to see what solutions are presented from the task force.
Jennifer Brenneman, 38, also of White Lake, said she felt an energy in the room as Stevens spoke.
“Everyone seemed geared toward the same goal — balance and compromise between the two parties instead of everyone at each other’s throats,” Brenneman, who identifies herself as an independent voter, said. “I would like to hear more specifics, less generalizations.”
Maureen Cirocco, 51, of Livonia, said her big concerns are healthcare, education and gun control, all things Stevens is passionate about.
“She believes in a path to a high wage job,” she said. “I also have healthcare concerns and that is huge.”
Stevens will relocate from a temporary office in Novi to a permanent office in Livonia next week. She is also planning “pop-up” offices in communities throughout the 11th District to be more accessible to all her constituents. For more information, visit stevens.house.gov.
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