By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Every Friday they show up with their signs – fueled by frustration and fear about the future of the nation. This week, constituents of Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District had two main questions for U.S. Rep. Bob Latta at his office in Bowling Green.
But as usual, they had to settle for talking to the congressman’s staff.
First question – why has Latta refused to meet with his constituents?
“Where is Bob Latta. We really want to see him,” said Betsey Davis, of Indivisible Maumee River Progressives.
And second, where are President Donald Trump’s tax returns, and why did Latta vote that the president shouldn’t have to make them public?
“Where are his taxes? Let’s have some honesty,” Davis said.
As some citizens stood out along North Main Street, others went into Latta’s office and voiced their concerns and questions to the congressman’s staff. Despite repeated requests, Latta has not responded to their efforts to meet with him.
“We’ve invited him so many times,” said Kathy Bangle, of Fulton County Indivisible. “We want to talk to him. We want to hear what he has to say. We come every single Friday. His aides are wonderful. But it’s not the same as talking with him.”
On Friday, the posters again revealed the thoughts of the constituents. “Latta is Lost,” “Wanted for Not Doing His Job,” “MIA.” They periodically broke out into chants of “Where is Bob?”
“We need him to listen, and we need him to start protecting us,” Davis said.
“It’s not good enough,” to talk with the congressman’s aides each week. “We’ve invited him. He’s declined every single time.”
Staff in Latta’s Bowling Green office said any questions about a public meeting during Congress’ two-week Easter break had to be directed to Latta’s office in Washington, D.C.
A question left for his director of communications, Drew Griffin, was answered with an email stating, “Thanks for reaching out. We don’t have any town halls scheduled at this time.”
Latta has defended his use of telephone town halls as his way of connecting with constituents. But Susan Shelangoski, of NOFA Indivisible, said that format doesn’t allow for effective communication. “I think that’s a very controlled form,” she said.
After asking three times to be on Latta’s telephone town hall list, Shelangoski said she got a phone call with no notice, and a quick cut off after she posed a question. “It was very unsatisfying.”
Since March, Shelangoski said she has made multiple requests with Latta’s D.C. office to meet with the congressman. “He claims to do that on his website,” she said. “I didn’t even get the courtesy of a response.”
Neocles Leontis, of Bowling Green, shared the same frustration. “Bob continues to refuse to hold a public hearing where he answers questions from the public.”
“It is his job to listen to us,” Shelangoski said.
Janice Veitch, also of Bowling Green, said she objects to the votes placed by Latta, and would like to talk with him about issues she feels are important. “He hides. We at least need a chance to tell him our issues.”
Since many in the nation are rushing to finish their taxes by the approaching deadline, several of the citizens had questions about Trump’s taxes and about Latta’s willingness to let the president get away without revealing his returns.
“I want to know why he would do that,” JoAnn Schiavone, Walbridge, said about Latta’s vote to allow Trump to keep his tax return private.
Debbie Dalke, of Bowling Green, held a sign stating that each time Trump goes to his resort in Florida it costs the taxpayers at least $1 million. He has made seven trips there so far into his presidency. The cost to secure Trump Tower in New York City is estimated at $300,000 a day.
The president is planning huge cuts in several governmental budgets, yet “look how much he’s costing us,” Dalke said.
“Show us your tax returns. Show us you’re being a responsible citizen, just like the rest of us,” Dalke said.
Citizens shared other concerns, including the potential for war with North Korea. “That’s what’s keeping me awake,” said Barbara Baumgarten.
John Georgeson, of Bowling Green, voiced his concern about Trump’s promise to bring back coal while stripping the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. “Climate change is real,” he said, and such steps would harm future generations.
John Zanfardino, of Bowling Green, spoke of some broad concerns about the direction of the nation under Trump. “I’m very concerned about where we’re heading,” he said. “I want people like Rep. Latta to not just blindly follow whatever he tweets about today.”
Zanfardino also pointed out the success of people protesting around the nation. He credited those efforts with stopping the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“This does matter,” he said.