Greg Hull: Has anyone seen “St. James”?Congress had a break in August, presumably in part so that the representatives could go back to their districts and hear from the people they are supposedly representing.
By: Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
Congress had a break in August, presumably in part so that the representatives could go back to their districts and hear from the people they are supposedly representing.
With that in mind, did anyone notice Jim Oberstar around anywhere? In Lake County, anyway?
For that matter, has anyone seen him in our neighborhood in the last year?
I haven’t heard tell of his presence nearby, but I know I don’t get out much. The last time I saw him in our area was more than a year ago, when he came to a meeting regarding improvements on the North Shore. I’ve written of that meeting before and I am still amazed at the deference and obsequiousness shown him by local politicians. As I noted then, I doubt the papal ring has ever been kissed with the ardor and deference shown the congressman that afternoon.
It was then I knew that only the sobriquet of “St. James” would fit him. Apparently, more than three of his legislative accomplishments qualify as miracles.
Shocking as it might seem, he doesn‘t seem to read my column. At least he hasn’t taken my advice and come to ride with the sheriff up Highway 61 with lights and sirens running. Pity, as it would have given him a moment of excitement — not to mention the excitement for drivers who don’t have room to pull out of the way.
He apparently behaved himself during President Obama’s speech on health care. Maybe the transportation chair will challenge his party’s standard bearer on a highway bill, but of course he won’t take him on it public. But he could have stood up partway through the speech and shouted something like “You Go, O!” In one fell swoop, he would have voiced his support of the president and let those of us in his district that he is still alive. Much like the voters of South Carolina wanted to know about their governor.
Now a delegation from Lake County is going out to Washington for the purpose of recruiting Mr. Oberstar to help find money so we can, among other things, repair Highway 61. There are also funds in the request for a bike trail (that’s one of his favorites — have you seen him decked out in his spiffy bike togs?). There are also requests for other transportation infrastructure projects, none of which, to my knowledge, involves significant lumber purchases. All of these are earmarks, meaning that it is full federal funding, with no state matching funds required.
Many folks have been working hard over the past few months to put this Transportation Generating Economic Recovery — or TIGER — grant proposal together. Many, many folks. These include paid professionals who have mastered the art of grant writing, packaging them in a format that is especially enticing to senators and congressmen.
These grant-writing professionals are to the world of politics what guides are to the world of bear hunting. They know how to concoct the bait and display it in such a manner as to entice a bear to come in close enough to shoot. They do not, however, actually bag the game. That’s up to the hunters who hire them. The guides get paid either way.
It’s easy, of course, to upbraid our local elected officials for bothering with this trip, or even the entire project. But I do see their point; if they don’t try, they know we’ll get nothing. If they do go, we still might get nothing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And this is the way the reality of how our political system works. If it does work, they will bring home a lot of cash and create good paying local jobs. Something St. James will take credit for at election time.
All the same, it just strikes me that something is amiss when local units of government have to spend significant time and effort to put a sales package together, and then travel to Washington in order to sell it to the people who are suppose to be representing us in order to obtain funding for needed projects when we are the ones sending the money to Washington in the first place. I understand the 8th Congressional District is larger than the state of New Hampshire. But air travel is available and even expanding.
My diatribe may be little more than cursing the darkness, and maybe I should just accept the fact that this is the way political life is. Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean this is how things ought to be. It’s hard to believe that this is what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they organized our political system. In those days, representatives actually lived and worked in their districts, and the sessions didn’t last most of the year.
They visited Washington. Now things seem to have gotten turned around.
Greg Hull is a sawyer and philosopher-at-large. He has never preformed a miracle in his life, although he has on occasion been astounding. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org