My column from the Vinton County Courier, 2/26/2014
I learned Monday morning that a district representative from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's office would be available to constituents that afternoon at the Courthouse. No appointment necessary.
“I should go,” I thought to myself. “Nah, what difference would it really make?”
Then, as I often do, I thought of a Dr. Seuss story, “Horton Hears a Who.” What if the world was just needing one more voice to make a difference? What if it was me who was that tiniest Who in Whoville?
So I gathered my United Way director business cards and headed to the County Courthouse. After all, how can Sen. Portman represent me if I don’t speak up and tell him what’s on my mind?
And you probably know what’s on my mind, for it might also be on your mind. Groceries. Humble groceries. “Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,” to quote Robert Frost.
Most of me assumed that Sen. Portman knew about the closure of our Super Valu grocery store; that it was the only store in our county; that his Vinton County constituents were worried; that food insecurity had entered our lives.
But did he? Previously, I had written emails to the Dollar General folks to encourage them to bring a Market concept store to our community. (Epic fail.) But I didn’t write to any of my legislators.
I arrived early, as is the Vinton County way. At first, I was the only person there as a constituent and took every advantage to buttonhole Senator Portman’s representative, Todd Shelton. We talked in the Commissioners’ chamber.
I told him of the United Way’s concerns for those we fund — food pantries overstressed, senior citizens unable to drive out of town for food and low income families without transportation.
I talked to him about the fact that our citizens would not be able to succeed and thrive if they were worried about food. But I also talked to him as a worried person who can’t make soup tonight because she forgot to get potatoes and it would take 90 minutes to get to the store and back and that would be bedtime.
I talked to him as someone worried about the value of her house. I talked to him as someone who has made a commitment to Vinton County as my home.
Mr. Shelton did have some useful suggestions. He said Sen. Portman’s office would contact the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in Athens to see if they could develop a business proposal that might attract a food store.
It's a good idea. But I countered with the need to have Vinton County voices in the process. Too often assistance to our region is like butter on cold toast — it just doesn’t sink in.
He countered with the idea that the Voinovich School would help us put together a working group (“stakeholders”) of Vinton County people to get the Center’s plan up and running.
He was nice. I was nice. That’s how it works.
I don’t mean to get political. I am just upset about lack of attention to this problem. I’m upset that I have been a part of the problem. I should be contacting every elected representative I can, from our local officials right up to the President.
I need to be making some noise. I might be that tiniest Who from Whoville. I invite you fellow Whovillians to join me.