McCaleb: Hultgren listening, learning about McHenry County

Randy Hultgren is making sure he’s no stranger to McHenry County.

The second-term Republican congressman from Winfield has been making the rounds in our neck of the woods recently, meeting new people and listening to constituents about their concerns.

In the past week, he’s visited Johnsburg to learn about the village’s sewage issues. He’s attended a local Patriots United breakfast and a Lincoln Day event. He’s been meeting with McHenry County bankers on financial and regulatory issues, and with medical professionals on health care issues.

On Friday, he met with members of Northwest Herald’s Editorial Board.

While Hultgren first was elected to Congress in 2010, the 14th District looked a lot different than it does now. No part of McHenry County was in the district in his first term. Since post-Census redistricting, the new 14th now includes all of McHenry County except Algonquin Township, which is in Illinois 6th District (a seat held by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton)

“This is a new area for me since the remap, so we just want to get around and meet people,” Hultgren said. “We really now are listening. ... We want to hear how we can best represent everyone.”

Not unexpectedly, Hultgren said he’s still hearing a lot of frustration from people – about the economy, and about Congress’s performance.

One topic that’s been on a lot of people’s minds lately is sequestration, a series of automatic federal budget cuts that will occur beginning Friday if Congress does not reach a new deficit-reduction deal.

“I think on March 1, sequestration is going to happen,” Hultgren said. “I hope it doesn’t. I’m hopeful we can have responsible discussion [this] week and we can get something done by March 1.”

The cuts triggered by sequestration were put into place during last year’s battle over raising the U.S. debt limit. Though Hultgren supports significant budget cuts, he didn’t vote for sequestration.

“I think sequestration is a really bad idea,” he said.

If it happens, the Defense Department will see a 13 percent budget cut that will include layoffs and furlough days for many of its civilian employees. Medicare will be cut by about 2 percent. There also will be expense reductions that affect airport security screeners, customs agents, air traffic controllers, FBI employees including special agents, Homeland Security border agents, and food safety inspectors.

Hultgren mostly is worried about the cuts to the military and airport security.

“What’s that going to mean for national security and defense?” he said.

We’ll be keeping in touch with the congressman as sequestration talks develop later this week.

On other topics, Hultgren said he is opposed to President Barack Obama’s proposal to ban assault-style weapons and large-ammunition magazines, and to raise the federal minimum wage.

Gun control “just doesn’t address the problem,” he said. And, “How can you call for a higher minimum wage when we have unemployment at 8 percent for four years. It’s changing the subject.”

Hultgren said he supports hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method of drilling through the earth’s rock formations to extract natural gas that, before modern technology advancements, was unobtainable. Many environmental groups oppose fracking.

“It’s maybe one of the biggest game changers for us,” he said, noting that it could lead to energy independence for the U.S. “But let’s do it in a responsible way.”

• • • 

Dozens of heroes: If you missed the special Everyday Heroes section that published in Saturday’s newspaper, I recommend you go back and take a look.

In the section are stories on 37 McHenry County residents who go above and beyond to give back to their communities.

There’s the story of Judy Pelinski of Lake in the Hills, who heads the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce committee that is responsible for collecting tens of thousands of pounds of food for donation each Thanksgiving.

You’ll also meet Jim Lalor of Woodstock, who delivers Meals on Wheels every Friday.

And then there’s Dr. James Mowery of McHenry, who for the past 14 years has volunteered his time and expertise to treat uninsured and underinsured patients at the Family Health Partnership Clinic in Woodstock.

None of the local residents featured in this section has to volunteer. They do so because they care about their communities and the people who live here.

At the end of the section was a list of places in McHenry County that couldn’t operate efficiently without volunteers. You can view videos of these heroes at NWHerald.com.

If you feel inspired by these heroes’ stories, consider volunteering. You’ll not only help others live a happier life, you might just feel better about yourself, too.

• Dan McCaleb is group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban publications and editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-525-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.

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