Franken reps visit WorthingtonWORTHINGTON — Representatives from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s office held office hours at the Worthington City Hall Tuesday, meeting with community members about their concerns.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Representatives from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s office held office hours at the Worthington City Hall Tuesday, meeting with community members about their concerns.
The “office hours” were part of a series of one-on-one-style meetings being hosted in 66 Minnesota cities to gather feedback from constituents while Franken’s permanent office is set up in St. Paul.
Director of Field Operations Bethany Snyder said two issues have been at the forefront in most communities: the economy and healthcare.
“There’s a sense of uneasiness about the current economy and its effects on workers in the healthcare industry,” said Dave Blanchard, director of legal affairs at the St. Paul-based SEIU Healthcare, which works with Worthington Sanford employees.
“What we’re hearing from employers is that there’s an uptick of people not paying their bills. … and it’s putting a lot of pressure on the healthcare system,” he continued, adding that workers are optimistic reform will come to the healthcare system.
“(Franken) has been trying to learn about the issue, he’s doing his work on it for sure,” assured Field Representative Avi Viswanathan.
From the city standpoint, City Administrator Craig Clark ticked off a few issues of community concern: immigration reform and transportation projects like Minnesota 60, while Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain expressed concern that consumers be protected from spikes in utility costs as the legislature develops its bill on climate change.
The city is also hoping the Senate and House will reach a generous compromise when it comes to allocation of funds for the multistate Lewis and Clark Water Project, which was originally slated to reach Worthington by 2016 and is 80 percent federally funded.
Southwest Crisis Center director Jan Johnson Ojinnaka also attended.
“I just wanted to get a sense of where the new senator stands on providing services to victims of crime,” she said.
Abedom Elish, of Worthington, came seeking help in bringing his daughter to the United States from Kenya, and Snyder referred him to case worker.
Requests for specific problems have been rarer in her meetings, Snyder said, as most come to express an opinion. But with two senators, those cases should now be more easily processed.
“Before Sen. Klobuchar was taking all the case work. … I think a lot of people don’t realize this is what Senate offices do,” she said.