BREWER, Maine — An estimated 450 people from throughout Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and beyond gathered in Brewer Tuesday night to give their elected representatives a piece of their minds.
The problem was U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud were no shows.
Instead the dozens of people who traveled from such places as Washington County, Casco, Saco, East Millinocket, Orrington, the St. John Valley, Bangor, and York County, had to make due by addressing blown up photographs of the three propped up against three empty chairs that had been reserved for them at the front of the room.
Tuesday night’s gathering at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer was organized by Paul Trommer of Bangor, who got the word out largely through e-mail invitations and other means of Internet networking.
“This is about people feeling disenfranchised by their elected representatives,” Trommer said just before the start of the event, which lasted at least two hours.
“Our representatives are ducking us and not having any public meetings with their constituents. This has many folks not only concerned, but upset and angry,” he said in his invitation, adding that the point of the session was to allow Mainers to express their views and concerns regarding their representatives’ actions in Wash-ington.
In his opening remarks, Trommer said he organized the town hall-style meeting because he was sick and tired of seeing people essentially being ignored by their congressional delegation.
“This isn’t a Republican event. This isn’t a Democratic event. This is a people event,” he said, adding that he didn’t plan the event in conjunction with any particular political party and that he received no funding to host it. Jeff Ashey, owner of Jeff’s Catering in Brewer, provided the use of his hall at no cost.
The anger and frustration in the room was almost palpable.
By the end of the more than two-hour event, an estimated 75 Mainers had stepped up to the podium to express their concerns, fears and desires regarding the political direction the United States is taking.
Topics Mainers sounded off about ran the gamut from unprecedented federal spending to increasing restrictions on gun ownership. Other issues addressed included plans to nationalize health care, the federal stimulus package, recent corporate bailouts, and the cash for clunkers program.
Chuck Sherman, who retired from General Electric, was angry about recent news that Social Security recipients likely won’t see a cost of living increase for two years.
While the nation’s seniors will be doing without some of life’s basics, members of Congress are enjoying six-figure salaries, he said.
“I’m on a fixed income like a lot of you blue hairs out there,” the Hampden man said, adding that the cost of his diabetes medication is increasing. “So my fixed costs are rising and my income is decreasing.”
With regard to federal spending, including the stimulus package, a registered nurse who only identified himself as Jake said, “Stop spending my money and stop spending my children’s money,” especially since there isn’t a plan for paying it off.
Though Trommer initially planned to send recordings of the meeting to Collins, Michaud and Snowe, he said late Tuesday night that he might instead edit it and post it on YouTube.
“If they will not listen to the people, then the people will make them listen,” he said.