We’re starting today with a letter from a very young constituent.
Teresa Leger Fernandez:
One of the favorite things I got to do today was call Winnie. And let me put my call with Winnie in context. I have received 22,000 communications—letters, emails, phone calls from constituents on various matters in what has it been seven weeks? So that’s a lot of communications, there’s been a lot happening. But one of our favorite ones is—I shall read this: “I am Winnie. I’m seven and a half. I’m writing to ask you to do these things. One, keep the earth healthy. Two, schools and teachers should get more money to help black and brown kids. Three, no more immigrants in cages. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Winnie Anderson.” And so I got to have a conversation with Winnie Anderson in front of the Capitol this evening before I walked home. And Winnie is just lovely. So, you know, I encouraged her to keep writing me so that we could become pen pals.
Well, Winnie sounds like she’s got wisdom beyond her years.
She definitely does. And it was so much fun and there were other Congresspeople who overheard the call and they were also, they were just delighted with it as well and started sharing some of their treasured communications with constituents and kids. And so it was a, it was a lovely moment.
And that came on the heels of the town hall meeting that you did last night in which you had thousands and thousands of constituents listening and asking questions and far more than you could even get to. But what did you take home from that in terms of sort of the mood and concerns of your electorate?
What was lovely is that some of the concerns very localized, but reflect national issues. What are we going to do about opioids? We have an issue about opioid addiction. And I had just last week, co-led a bill on opioids and could speak to it and could speak to what we were doing on a national level and how that was going to have a positive impact on New Mexico. Septic systems. Not every Congresswoman is going to get questions about what do we do about septic systems and how could we help to make sure that we have healthy working septic systems. If you represent a rural district that is a question, you’re going to get. And so there are certain things that are so clearly rural New Mexico, and then what’s happening with COVID. So it tells me that our issues are very specific to Northern New Mexico, to Rio Rancho, to whole breadth of the district, but also that they are reflected in issues that the rest of the nation faces, that we are addressing in Congress.
I loved getting the questions. You know, our first question you could tell the person calling in was not completely sold on the American Rescue Plan; he thought that we were investing in issues that he thought went beyond COVID. And I felt really comfortable making the case that no, when we are investing in our schools that have been impacted when we were sending money to our local government, that that is COVID related, because COVID, isn’t just the disease. It is what that infection and what our failure to deal with it has caused to the nation as a whole. So I really enjoyed it. The only bad thing is that you can’t get to 4,000 people. Our phones started ringing the minute we hung up. So people were calling in to get information about our caseworker, because we wanted to make sure that everybody, I also knew that we’re there to help you. If you have problems with federal agencies, people were calling on that. So it made me really happy because it meant that people were listening and they were realizing that I am there to serve.
Just a quick follow-up before we go. And that is that the questions, for example, the septic system question really led me to reflect on how well has the Democratic party embraced the concerns of rural voters, and whether they are kind of getting with the program where that’s concerned.
Yeah, I’ve embraced the issues of the rural voters. As we showed in my response, we have money in our bills to address those issues. I think it’s $65 billion for rural schools. So yeah, we are sending significant sums into rural America. You know, what might not be happening is that rural America doesn’t perhaps know that we are doing this for them, and that I think is incumbent on people like me to say, yeah, guess what? Here’s $65 billion that we have placed towards rural schools. I’ve spent the last several weeks meeting with rural mayors and county commissioners and laying out what we’re doing. And they’re very appreciative, and they tell me what their issues are. And it’s like, okay, this is one way I don’t have an answer to that. Let me see if we can get it. But you know, I’m a member of the Democratic party and we are addressing these rural issues.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus and COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan will be voted on in the next couple of days. And we will have more on that as it happens.