Our Meeting with Morgan Griffith – Letter to the Editor

84
Morgan Griffith

Editor’s note: This letter is a follow up to “Attending Congressman Griffith’s local staff meeting Feb. 8” that appeared in the Feb. 15 edition of the News Messenger.

The time slot would only be half an hour, but my group had managed a meeting with our congressman, Morgan Griffith.


None of us had ever met with him before, and we were a bit nervous. When we arrived, we were ushered into the conference room right on time.

Griffith stood at the entrance, and shook our hands as we each introduced ourselves. Once seated, we thanked him for his time, and then read our brief letters aloud, to be sure the effort and thought we put into them was actually heard by Griffith himself, and not just a staffer.

He listened without interrupting us. Then we opened the discussion with the question, “What do you hope your legacy will be?” We thought this might be a good way to pinpoint his priorities quickly. He said he hoped he’d be remembered for creating jobs, especially in high-unemployment areas like the coal counties.

He said that he realized the days of high coal-production levels were gone, but insisted that there were still deposits worth mining. When I asked if he thought there could be any other potential for these counties, like tourism, he had one word, “No.”

Griffith insisted that without the existence of a major highway, a “Coalfields Expressway,” other jobs or tourism would never arrive in those areas. Then he said that since earmarks had been done away with, there wasn’t much he could do to fund such a project.

He said that there is ARC funding (that is, funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission), but that the counties themselves, and not him, had to apply for it. He did mention the Spearhead Trail system, four ATV trails that twist through southwestern Virginia and totaling over 150 miles, but didn’t seem to think it would amount to much profit for that area.

“I’m not a big fan of the voucher system,” implying that he would vote against the bill.

We then moved on to one person’s concern about a bill that would replace the current funding for public education with a voucher system. On this topic, Griffith said “I’m not a big fan of the voucher system,” implying that he would vote against the bill. We all voiced our appreciation in finding something we agreed upon.

The clock was ticking. We moved on to the conflict between his statements about loving and wanting to preserve the environment for future generations and his support for Scott Pruitt for EPA director (Pruitt built a career bringing lawsuits against the EPA).

We also expressed concern about Griffith’s own work to repeal the Open Streams Rule, thus allowing the dumping of rubble from coal mining, which contains toxic heavy metals, into our waterways. He claimed that the rule was passed at the last minute and was too general in nature to be appropriate. I asked if something else protecting our water shouldn’t be in place before the other was repealed. I likened it to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without any other health plan in place. Again, he answered “No.”

Another constituent stated that she had never been involved in politics at all, but now she wanted to be active and she knew others who felt the same way. This lead nicely into my issue, which was Griffith’s refusal to schedule evening town-hall meetings throughout his district.

His first response was that despite advertising, TV coverage and announcing previous town halls, no one showed up. I responded by saying, “They would show up now.” and I asked, “Have you held one since Trump has been elected?” He didn’t answer. He commented on the confrontational mood of the town halls across the country.

He then added, “Well, everyone’s all ginned up right now.” That made me truly angry and I cut in to say, “Excuse me, but I think that is totally unfair. These people have real concerns and questions about what is happening right now. They are not just ‘all ginned-up’.” He shut his mouth, made a grimace and acquiesced somewhat; “Well, maybe not all of them.”

Overall, I feel that Griffith does care about his constituents. However, the quality of that care depends upon what region of his district you live in. If you are in coal country, he wants to do all he can to mine coal, but this is in conflict with other regions whose citizens are by appalled with his determination to relax environmental regulations.

I think that the reasons Griffith gave as to why many issues are more complex and difficult to solve than we may think, is, for the most part, true. But overall, I felt a real lack of innovation, leadership or enthusiasm.

It seemed he knew why things wouldn’t work, but didn’t have any other ideas or a view for the future.

The last question was, “What do you think people with this new desire to be more active and involved in their district should do?” He answered, “They should go down into counties like Dickenson and Buchanan and think of new ideas to help these areas.”

The last question was, “What do you think people with this new desire to be more active and involved in their district should do?” He answered, “They should go down into counties like Dickenson and Buchanan and think of new ideas to help these areas.”

I guess that means he is out of ideas, but I think it is also a call to all of his constituents to contact his office and schedule a meeting with him. Bring yourselves and your groups with inventive ideas, enthusiasm, inspirational plans and hopes for the future.

Griffith seems all tapped out.

Diana Dougherty,
Blacksburg