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A visit from the 5th District’s representative

For anyone thinking everything in Washington, D.C., has gone to hell in a handbasket, U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5) is a strong antidote to that feeling. Rep. Hayes visited Falls Village on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 27, speaking and taking random questions from a large audience at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. (See story by Reporter Patrick Sullivan in this issue.) The event was also proof that civic engagement is high in the Northwest Corner, with people coming out not only from Region One towns, but also from Litchfield, Torrington and elsewhere in the area, just about filling the high school auditorium. 

Hayes began the event by speaking about her goals and accomplishments during her first year in Washington, and exuded commitment to her work in the nation’s capital on behalf of all her constituents. She has gone quite far out of her way to communicate directly with them during the August recess, as she did that Tuesday. 

She spoke for about 20 minutes, then took questions for about another hour, carefully listening to the intent of each speaker. Hayes took the time to answer their questions and elaborate whenever she believed it would help to better inform the audience members and increase their understanding of the issues. 

The discussion included the topics of gun reform, immigration reform, the Mueller Report, impeachment and impeachment inquiry, congressional investigations, white nationalism, LGBTQ civil rights, targeted oppression of and aggression against minority groups and more. Nothing was sugar-coated and Hayes was honest in her assessment that the nation’s problems are not going to be easy to solve. However, she also was  clear that she would not back down from the challenge, and that she would strive to serve all her constituents with equal vigor. 

Another takeaway from the open meeting was that the citizenry of the Northwest Corner is well informed and passionate in having their voices heard by those in power. Hayes got an earful on all the aforementioned topics, and to her credit, appeared to appreciate all the engagement. She welcomed the chance for open discussion with her constituents. This is not the case in every congressional district across the country. Some representatives use the month of August to connect with governmental and party leaders in their states and avoid the open meeting approach. The 5th District is fortunate to have a representative who believes in hearing the words of voters directly.

The hope that Hayes brought with her to her district is not based on naivete, but rather on the firm belief that Congress can get more legislation done when it wants to. Her evidence was the bill supporting 9/11 first responders with their medical expenses, which found its way through Congress to the president’s desk for approval within a week of advocate and celebrity Jon Stewart’s impassioned testimony on Capitol Hill pleading for passage. Action and change can happen, she said, with the will of the people in office making it so. 

Here’s to Hayes continuing to be one of those representatives who make it so.