Thursday, June 15, 2017
Pioneer Valley congressman Richard Neal isn't feeling the love from some of his hilltown constituents these days, but I wonder if much of their concerns about his level of constituent service are misplaced. I say this as a longtime critic of Representative Neal, a staunch Democrat whose voting record in Congress rarely coincides with my own libertarian views.
Grumblings about Neal's availability and responsiveness are not new. As far back as 1992, the refusal of Neal's office to respond to letters sent to him by a supporter of then presidential candidate Ross Perot named Tom Sheehan so exasperated Sheehan that he actually ran against Neal on Perot's third party ticket, garnering 16% of the vote. Last year Independent Frederick Mayock and Libertarian Thomas Simmons ran against Neal, both using inaccessibility as an issue, but combined they got only 27% of the vote. The point is that the issue of Neal's accessibility has been raised in the past, but has never translated into any kind of a serious threat to Neal's re-election. Despite the clever advertising campaign by his critics, I don't think the issue will have much impact this time either.
For one thing, elections are about candidates as much as issues, and I don't see any major figure on the horizon who might challenge Neal. I also suspect that the hilltown critics are a little naive about what they should expect from Neal. As top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Neal is a major figure in devising the nuts and bolts of the resistance to the policies of the Republicans under Donald Trump. Neal will have the opportunity over the next two years to make a major impact on whether those policies advance through congress or are rejected.
Therefore, if I were as anti-Trump as the members of Indivisible Williamsburg claim to be, I would want Richie Neal to stay in Washington and on the job as much as possible. The last thing I would want him to do is wander far from the heat of battle by visiting the hilltowns to chat about the drop in the wholesale price of milk and the condition of country roads.
If Neal ever is spotted in Williamsburg, those crusading anti-Trumpers would probably be smarter to tell him to stop wasting his time visiting them and get back to waging the war in Washington.
Update - Neal couldn't be very happy about this cover story in the latest Valley Advocate.
Speaking of service, there was a really nice affair this week honoring the late Amherst blogmaster Larry Kelley, who tirelessly served the town with news, commentary and high quality photography since he made his first blog posting on St. Patrick's Day 2007. The memorial event featured framed versions of some of Kelley's better photographs and was held at the Sunrise Grill on Fearing Street, right across from where I used to live in the early 90's. I lived in the upstairs apartment and used to look out the window at the mob scenes that used to form outside that joint on Saturday nights.
The pizza and grinder place looks the same as it did then, although it had a different name that I can't quite recall.
Here I am at the event with Amherst Town Meeting member Emilie Hamilton.
Larry's beautiful daughters were also in attendance.
Mary Cary, who took most of the pictures you are looking at, is shown here with the legendary Amherst Bulletin reporter Phylis Lehrer.
Here's a video Mary Cary shot of the many nice things people had to say.
I leave you for the time being with this view of downtown Northampton through the front door of City Hall.