Shortly after taking office in January, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy told The New York Times, "There's this feeling among many in America that it's harder than ever to get ahead in our country, that it's easier than ever to do nothing. There's a feeling that the people in Washington don't listen and they don't care. ... And they want something done about it. They're entitled to be listened to and heard."
We agree, which is why we're puzzled that it's so difficult for constituents to catch Kennedy's ear these days. Consi- der this:
• During Senate recesses in February and April, Kennedy held no town hall meetings in Louisiana — unlike Sen. Bill Cassidy, who met constituents (and braved some fury) in Metairie in February. Unhappy with Kennedy's seeming unwillingness to meet the public, constituents held a protest on the steps of the Hale Boggs Federal Building in March (with Kennedy's face on a "missing" milk carton) and another in April at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, where voters asked questions of an effigy of the senator. A similar gathering was held in Baton Rouge on the LSU campus.
• Kennedy finally held what he called a "radio town hall" with WWL-AM's Garland Robinette in early May, but Sen. Kennedy has yet to hold a face-to-face town hall anywhere in Louisiana.
• As of late last week, Kennedy's official Senate website had no email directory of staffers — just a generic contact form. A full list of staffers and contact info, including the names of those who handle constituent services, would go a long way toward helping constituents who have difficulty navigating the maze of federal bureaucracies.
• Unlike Cassidy (and previous Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter), Kennedy has yet to open an office in southeast Louisiana or in Baton Rouge. The closest Kennedy office to New Orleans is in Lafayette (others are in Monroe and Alexandria).
We recognize Kennedy is only months into his new job, but we wonder why he didn't just maintain some of the area offices established by his predecessor, Vitter. We also recognize that opening new Senate offices outside the Beltway undoubtedly involves its own maze of bureaucratic delays — but that's all the more reason for Kennedy to hold face-to-face town hall meetings with his constituents in every corner of the state. With or without a local office, the senator could have held town hall meetings in any of the state's many parish courthouses or city halls. There's simply no excuse for Kennedy not facing his constituents, particularly when so much is happening in Washington.
President Donald Trump's first budget would slash Medicaid by more than $800 billion over the next 10 years and make drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). It shifts more fiscal responsibility to the states and would make it harder for workers to get disability benefits under Social Security. In other words, it would adversely affect many Louisianans.
These and other issues are on the minds of Louisiana voters, and they deserve the chance to speak their minds to both of their U.S. senators.