By Jan Worth-Nelson
U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee brought his House of Representatives colleague, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts, to Flint Saturday, a visit culminating in a tour of the Flint Farmer’s Market where, after buying fresh tomatoes, flowers and a danish from Crust, the two emphasized the need for access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the wake of the Flint water crisis.
Kildee and Kennedy, grandson of Robert Kennedy and grand-nephew of JFK, came into Congress together in 2013 and both are active in the Democratic caucus.
“Joe was immediately helpful in getting support for Flint,” when the water crisis broke, Kildee said, “and he’s here today to see how things are going.” Kennedy called Kildee “a stalwart advocate for the people of Flint” and said, regarding the city’s recovery, that “we have a long way to go.” He said work needs to be directed not just to the immediate response but a long-term response in several phases, from “triaging infrastructure to revitalizing Flint and other communities like it..”
Recovery “not a one-off thing”
“We know that this is not a one-off thing–not one single piece of legislation” will fix things, Kennedy said, but said Kildee’s expertise is in bringing members of both parties together “to make sure we’re not in a circumstance like this anywhere else down the road.”
The two called for expanding and making permanent the Double-Up Bucks food program, a popular option where each dollar of food stamps buys two dollars worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. “We know fresh fruits and vegetables are one way to overcome lead exposure,” Kildee said, adding that access to “affordable, nutritious food” will help the community get out of its crisis.
Kennedy, with his wife Lauren and daughter Eleanor, said this was his first visit to Flint but that his father, Joseph Kennedy II, had visited the city with Dan Kildee’s uncle Dale Kildee many years ago and was presented a key to the city.
Dems strategize toward the long term
Asked about how the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives is strategizing to prevent deregulation under the Trump administration that might further hurt places like Flint, Kildee said, “Our primary focus now is trying to do what we can to prevent the Trump administration from “taking us backward with the EPA, shrinking the very agency that many of our Republican colleagues criticized for not being quicker to respond in the Flint water crisis.”
“It is not enough to be against what the GOP are proposing,” Kildee added, “but to lead with an agenda investing in places like Flint, which have been only one mistake or one bad decision away from being in crisis. We need to have an agenda that doesn’t allow that to happen.
Kennedy added the Democratic caucus is doing everything it can to amplify the voice of people speaking out, to “put a human face” on policy debates. “The health care debate showed that if people do that, the system will respond.”
He further called for “giving a hard concerted effort to trying to address the circumstances that gave the opportunity for Donald Trump’s rise to start with. If we’re just responding to the latest outrage we’re missing it.” He said Congress needs to respond to the “chaos and incompetence damaging citizens who need protection,” in the Trump administration, but said if legislators don’t also address that economic challenges that put Trump in the White House, “then we’ve got a long tough road ahead.”
Trump tweet on JFK document release left out Kennedy family
Kennedy also commented on Trump’s latest tweet announcing his intent to release classified documents about the 1963 assassination of JFK, Kennedy’s great-uncle. The tweet is related to an Oct. 26 deadline set in law by Congress requiring public release of the secret documents — including FBI and CIA files — unless the president blocks them.
“I absolutely tend towards disclosure of government documents,” Kennedy said. “These are documents that have obviously been kept behind closed doors.
“The papers happen to be quite personal,” he said, adding that while he has no idea what’s in them, “it would have been nice if there had been some engagement with members of our family.”
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.