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2017-02-23

Constituents deliver hundreds of Valentines to local Lamar Smith's office in attempt to be heard

Special to the Courier

For weeks San Antonio district 21 constituents have been begging Rep. Lamar Smith for a town hall so that they can voice their concerns on a number of issues being decided in this new administration. They’ve made thousands of calls and many more that could not get through because his voicemail box was full. They have visited every Tuesday for the past four weeks to press for answers without a response. In an escalated attempt to be heard, today they delivered hundreds of valentines and demonstrated outside Smith’s north side San Antonio office.
A broad cross–section of diverse constituents who have never before been engaged in political action including retirees from all walks of life and parents of disabled children, and young professionals, have joined millions of others like them nationwide to remind congressional representatives who they work for. The grassroots organization Indivisible 21, constituents of the U.S. 21st congressional district, has grown to 2,700 members in just a few weeks.
These first–time activists are frightened by the platform of the new administration, including legislative and executive assaults on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security, financial safeguards, and the environmental protection agency. “Millions of people will suffer and even die if the ACA is repealed,” stated Kelly Trout. “My daughter has a genetic disorder that has caused her to be disable since birth. The outcome could be catastrophic for her and everyone like her.”
“I watched someone dear to me suffer and die needlessly from cancer prior to the Affordable Care Act. The law protects average Americans from health care discrimination. Whether you live or die should not be based on how much money you have,” added local group leader Jeanie Valenzuela.
“We’ve come here every Tuesday for the last five weeks as of today,” said Valenzuela. We’ve called, we’ve written, we’ve asked in person for a town hall so Rep. Smith can hear our concerns with no response whatsoever. The local office has been respectful and has assured us they convey our messages but that they have had no response either.”
Calls to Smith’s Washington office have not been acknowledged or returned either. “What do we have to do? Go to Washington?” Mike Asmus, Smith’s district manager, was asked by another constituent. “And if so, what are the protocols? None of us can afford it but if that’s what we have to do to be heard, we sure don’t want to get there and not be seen by him.”
The group suspects Smith is avoiding them because he’s seen the angry crowds at other congressional town halls. According to these folks, however, the longer he puts them off, the angrier they get. A simple search of Smith’s Facebook page reveals that he has indeed been back to Texas several times already this month. Just recently he visited a Boy Scout troop in Austin and a constituent spotted him at the Alamo Heights HEB. Smith held a limited number of town halls in his district last year but makes appearances at events that “interest him,” according to Asmus.
Indivisible 21, like all Indivisible groups, is committed to being respectful so the group has actually developed a rapport with District Manager Mike Asmus. “He’s a nice guy who’s doing his job. He’s the messenger; we get that. And we know he’s probably getting tired of seeing us every week, especially since we’ve now had to break into smaller groups since the office isn’t that large. But everyone wants to be heard,” stated Valenzuela. “And until Smith holds a town hall, we’ll be back. Every week.”