Why Listening Comes First
Sep 02 2016
As Kansans, we know our neighbors and look after them. In our small towns and our big cities, we know the value of the relationships we build with one another and how important it is to treat each other the way we would want to be treated. We teach our children to be moral and responsible citizens, and that they each have a role to play in shaping what Americans represent, both at home and across the globe. We treasure the American Dream and want to make certain our children and grandchildren have the opportunity that we’ve had to pursue that dream. Public service is about protecting these values. That’s part of why it’s so important for me to spend time at home in Kansas.
One of the principles I think of most frequently when making choices about which legislation I should draft or support is the idea that, the vast majority of the time, the decisions that have the most impact on our daily lives are best made at the state and local level. No one has a better understanding of the needs of their community than a small-town mayor who talks firsthand with business owners in her town, the police chief of a major metropolitan city who spends his days in the neighborhoods he works to keep safe, or the high school principal who has helped generations of students graduate and enter adulthood.
Similarly, an elected official can best protect your values when he or she is plugged in to the daily needs of the communities being served. We don’t fix our problems from afar, we fix them when we have a personal experience with them. When I fought to get the Lesser Prairie Chicken delisted by the EPA, I remembered individual conversations with land owners across Kansas about the impact the listing would have on their ability to manage their own land. When I battled to bring federal screening services back to the Salina Regional Airport and ensure residents can benefit from commercial service, I thought about those living in Salina who had spoken to me about how much they relied on the airport for travel to see their friends and family. I continue to fight against closure of the base on Guantánamo Bay in part because of the looks I’ve seen on the faces of members of the Leavenworth community when they talk about what housing detainees there would entail.
The impact of having conversations at home is why, when I first came to Congress, I decided to hold a town hall meeting in every county I represented in the Big First each year. As your senator, the listening tour has evolved into hosting a community forum in each of the 105 counties in our state each congress.
At these meetings, I sometimes meet people whose views vary from my own. In some ways, that is the most crucial part. It’s certainly easier to spend time with people who agree with me, but I may learn more from those with different perspectives. At a time where partisan rancor and gridlock seem more prevalent than ever, and when many feel that their government is becoming less and less responsive, there is nothing more valuable than having a real conversation about the things that matter most to all of us. This is a way to build consensus.
Those topics vary from community to community. In WaKeeney earlier this month, I heard from residents about the need to stop EPA overreach through the Clean Water Act. That same day at a town hall in Atwood, we discussed how federal regulations impact local pharmacies and the amount of money we’re spending on our national defense. When I stopped in Lenexa, Johnson County locals shared with me the importance of making certain our education system prepares our children for their bright futures.
In a state where our largest city has a population of almost 400,000 and our smallest community has a fraction of that number, it’s critical for me to get perspectives from rural and urban communities alike. Our needs are unique and specific, and these stops help me learn what’s most pressing.
I wrapped up my third 105-stop tour since being elected to the Senate last week with a stop in Sharon Springs. Though much has changed since my first town hall, my efforts in Washington, D.C., remain much the same today as they were when I was first elected: to see that we protect our Kansas way of life and have opportunity for all in the communities we call home. The stakes feel higher today, and I hear the need for action from every American I talk to.
I will continue to fight on behalf of Kansans in our nation’s capital, and I will continue to fight for the future of our country. I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear from you – your questions, complaints and marching orders help me work on your behalf.
You can learn more about my upcoming travels in Kansas by subscribing to my weekly newsletter at www.moran.senate.gov.