Rep. Schrier has Wenatchee-based townhall

Schrier has multi-topic, Wenatchee-based

town hall, her second in three months

 

Story and photos by Gary Bégin

NCW Media Managing Editor

WENATCHEE – On Wednesday, February 17, Representative Kim Schrier (D-Issaquah) held a town hall meeting for Central Washington constituents co-hosted by Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz. Kuntz sorted out questions submitted by email prior to the meeting and also added occasional commentary.

Kuntz said it was almost exactly one year ago that we started to hear about COVID-19 and sure enough Schrier fielded several questions on that very subject.

“We have to treat this novel virus as a novel virus,” she said.

Schrier, a second term Congressman representing Washington’s 8th Congressional District, said she wanted to get home COVID-19 testing kits out en mass, stating that it was of the utmost importance to test those that are asymptomatic (exhibiting and feeling no symptoms) because they are the ones spreading the virus.

Schrier said the “hospitality and entertainment industries are the hardest hit.”

She wants the government to mass produce, buy and distribute testing kits, saying “COVID-19 will most likely be with us for a very long time.”

Schrier told listeners (Zoom attendees) that she likens Washington state and her district especially to a microcosm of the country as a whole because it has everything from big cities to farms, mountains, orchards and a huge variety of demographics living within it. She said there was great diversity representing “both sides of the mountains.”

The Wenatchee Business Journal asked her if she felt threatened while at the Capitol during the riotous and deadly insurrection last month and she responded by stating, “As time goes by it almost rocks me more. I knew it was going to be a scary day. I kept hearing about security briefings, but didn’t get one.”

Schrier said she was not in the Capitol building itself, but in her office in an adjacent building when the chaos ensued.

“I watched the president (Trump) on tv and saw the texting and emails about being evacuated and to keep away from windows and doors. Suspicious packages were found. It lasted six hours. We need to make sure this never happens again,” Schrier concluded.

Back to the subject of COVID-19, Schrier stated, “I don’t understand the governor’s (Inslee’s) plan on opening, reopening or phases.”

On another subject, Schrier said statistics show that immigrants start to become contributors to our communities’ economy after about seven years from arrival.

Regarding the wildfires that have plagued North Central Washington over the last few years, Schrier said that the climate has been “drier and hotter” and that the forests have not been managed appropriately over time.

“Managing forests around towns needs to be done with a combination of mechanical clearing and controlled burns,” she said.

Schrier said she is working on a bill to address “forest health and controlled burns.”

She said she is working with Wenatchee Mayor Kuntz and others on evacuation plans so when citizens are confronted by fire emergencies, they know what to do.

Brewer and restaurateur Pam Brulotte of Leavenworth (Icicle Brewing) asked if Schrier could do anything about the criteria for receiving PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funding?

Brulotte said she invested in her companies in 2019 only to be thwarted by the 2020 COVID-19 crisis causing massive revenues losses.

She stated her businesses lost 24 percent in gross revenues from the previous year, but that was skewered because of the previous investments. The criteria to receive “bailout” monies from the SBA was a minimum of a 25 percent loss, so her business didn’t qualify.

Schrier agreed and said Brulotte only missed the relief package by 1 percent and it was a matter of bad timing, but said maybe the parameters of using “gross revenues” was not the right thing to focus on when qualifying for funding. She said she would look into it further. Schrier agreed that Brulotte shouldn’t be punished for having the courage to invest in the future of her company in 2019.

Allen from Peshastin asked if using more nuclear power in response to climate change was doable and Schrier responded by saying “Every type of energy has pros and cons.”

Both Mayor Kuntz and Rep. Schrier agreed there must be more energy resources than solar, wind and battery storage. Kuntz said, “It makes us think about having duplicate resources” as backup systems when emergencies occur.

The state has 75 percent clean energy due to hydropower, according to Schrier.

The one-hour meeting had questions from Issaquah to Leavenworth, East Wenatchee and Entiat and covered several other topics such as Schrier’s role on the House Agriculture Committee.

Rich from Entiat asked if Schrier could do anything about the unfair import/export practices of Japan when it came to apples?

Schrier assured him that orchardists’ concerns about unjustified demands from other countries would be part of her agenda on the “Ag Committee.”

Tom of Leavenworth wanted to know if it was feasible for the government to start a “citizen’s climate corps” much like President FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) did during the depression era of the 1930s when he created the Works Progress Administration (WPA)* putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work building infrastructure and other projects across the country?

He said it would be a good way to use local expertise and labor and Schrier agreed, taking the idea under advisement, and will see what President Biden has in store.

Patrick of Wenatchee asked what was the biggest obstacle to the economy right now besides the pandemic? Schrier said she felt the two opposing political and scientific views that have polarized the nation depending on what news source a person listens to, watches or reads.

She said, “We are operating with two different sets of facts,” and blames “propaganda media and social media.” Schrier said, “we need to change the algorithms” so as to not “simplify divisiveness.”

Mayor Kuntz agreed and stated he “watches a diverse array of news sources.”

Kuntz also said he was working on homelessness and mental illness issues in his city and expressed concern that so many indigents ended up in jail or hospital emergency rooms. He said he believed in “housing first” and that mentally ill persons should be made safe and secure in supportive shelter environments.

Another topic briefly covered was the “decoupling” of mandatory health insurance from employer obligations and allowing employees to seek health plan options.

The meeting ended with a question from Dan in Leavenworth who asked Schrier, a pediatrician, if she supported the rights of the unborn?

Schrier answered that she supported choice for pregnant women and that it was between “women, health care providers and God, not the government.”

She said there should be a common goal of having all pregnancies occur as planned pregnancies, part of the larger sphere of family planning.

Schrier’s district spans western Washington (SammamishIssaquah, Auburn) , Ellensburg, and east of the Cascades (Wenatchee, Chelan, Leavenworth).

*May, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was just one of many Great Depression relief programs created under the auspices of the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, which Roosevelt had signed the month before.

Managing Editor Gary Bégin can be reached at: Gary@ncwmedia.net. Comments received may be reprinted as a Letter to the Editor in future NCW Media publications.

 

 

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