As the third action in our 100 Days campaign, we’re going to collectively generate a wave of thousands of grassroots-led protests, actions, and meetings directly engaging Members of Congress during the President’s Day Week.
We have tried for three days to schedule a meeting to meet with Shimkus, but they have done nothing but tell us that he doesn't do town hall meetings and only meets with individuals or 3-4 people at a time. Even with this restriction we have been unable to get an appointment. Due to this lack of response from Shimkus' office in Effingham, we have decided to show up at the office on Friday, February 24 at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
101 North 4th Street
Effingham, IL 62401
Phone: (217) 347-7947
Be prepared to ask questions. Also, be prepared to leave a list of your questions and/or concerns with the staffer, signed with your name and address so they know you're a constituent. If the office is closed, snap a photo of yourself or your group so we can post it on Facebook to publicize Shimkus' lack of duty to his constituents.
Here are six of the nine of us that talked to Shimkus' Aide for 75 minutes at 9:30 (Karen, Sarah and son are the other three).
Here is a preliminary report on the 9:30 meeting:
Charleston, IL Women's March Huddle Group, Action 3 Report
On Friday, February 24, at 9:30 a.m., eight members of the Charleston, IL Women's March Huddle Group went to the office of Representative John Shimkus in Effingham, IL. Mike Hall was the staff person there. He is not an official spokesperson, he can't speak for Rep. Shimkus. He is a District Aide who mostly works with constituents, his area of speciality being the IRS. He listened to our concerns and questions and took notes on the topics that we covered. Many times we presented a non-partisan viewpoint, that some issues concern everyone, not just one party. We got a little vocal at times, which was a good message in itself to send. Mr. Hall got upset when a video camera appeared. We stopped the meeting while he called his support people, notably the Press Secretary for Rep. Shimkus. We were informed that since Mr. Hall is not an official spokesperson, he could not be video recorded. We reported our horror at what Trump is doing and that our representative should stand up for the people, not the party. (As one member pointed out, only three GOP members to date have stood against Trump.) Here, in brief, is what we discussed:
• Planned Parenthood and abortions. Mr. Hall claimed that Planned Parenthood won't tell Congress how many abortions they perform which is why Congress will defund them. We told Mr. Hall that the figure is 3% and if we know that then Congress knows that, so we weren't buying his argument. (Granted, the 3% figure is complicated – it's the percentage of all PP services that are abortions. Some politicians want to count people rather than services and thus come up with a higher figure of 12%. Nevertheless, the data is there and Congress can figure it out.)
• EPA – Rep. Shimkus believes that its goals should be redefined and its staffing downsized, but that it shouldn't be eliminated. We argued that it needs to be made bigger, that it has been a GOP ploy to weaken it so that it is ineffective and people will call for its elimination.
• Immigration – We gave the message of no ban, no wall, no deportation. Immigrants are entitled to due process in our country.
• Healthcare – While the ACA is not perfect, it should not be repealed. We need to keep the good parts and improve on it.
• Climate change – While Rep. Shimkus acknowledges that there is climate change, he believes that it is natural and not of man's doing. He holds to the belief that God promised not to flood the earth again. Trump and his followers are denying science and offering their alt-facts. We need Rep. Shimkus to stand up for science, truth, and facts.
• Russian influence on the election should be investigated.
• Endangered species should not be ignored.
• Hunters are a large segment of the population that are concerned with conservation of resources.
• Where does Rep. Shimkus stand on LGBTQ rights? Will he react for or against Trump's executive order to overturn them? Would Shimkus stand by marriage equality? We should not go backwards on these issues.
• Will Rep. Shimkus support H.R. 669, the bill Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act?
• Net neutrality is vital for the free flow of information. Rep. Shimkus should support it.
• Rep. Shimkus should push for support for the arts and PBS.
This report will be updated after we hear from the members of our group who are planning to visit the office this afternoon at 3:30.
Jane and Keith visited Shimkus' office later in the day. Their excellent report is below.
Two of us arrived around 2:00 pm on February 24, 2017 to Representative Shimkus' office. The office staff person had the phone on speaker and was listening to voicemails and then deleting them. When he was finished Keith asked if that was how Rep. Shimkus handled all correspondence from his constituents. He claimed to be recording the messages to his personal cell phone for later transcription--I hope that's true. Since we were in the office while many voicemails were being played we heard concern after concern related to the ACA, requiring Trump to release his tax returns, etc. It is good to know there are many constituents voicing displeasure even if he may not be attending to them.
Mr. Hall took notes while I explained my concerns about defunding PP and the impact that would have on poor and rural women's access to routine care and contraception. I also shared the data I had about the projected increase in number of abortions that will likely occur if access to contraception is removed by ceasing Medicaid and Title X funding for PP ( he never made eye contact with me but raised his eyebrows at this--apparently that connection was news to him).
I also raised concerns about what kind of plan would replace the ACA. I emphasized that as a mental health provider I was very well aware of the negative impact loss of ACA plans would have on the working poor and otherwise uninsured in our community.
Since Shimkus regularly tweets bible verses, Keith asked that Rep. Shimkus demonstrate his Christian values by supporting programs for the poor since he has many in his district. He also said he hopes that Shimkus would champion in congress Trump's promise to establish a program that would provide excellent affordable healthcare for everyone.
Shannon and Bonnie also visited Shimkus' office later in the day. Their excellent report is below.
Shannon and I visited the John Shimkus office today in Effingham. His representative restated that Shimkus will not hold a town hall meeting. He said that Shimkus will meet with groups. We asked to be considered for a group meeting with Shimkus thinking that we could get people from Huddle, the Progressives of the 110th District, and the Planned Parenthood Action group.
We each presented a letter for Shimkus. One letter focused on the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid changes plus the need for Shimkus to hold town hall meetings to inform constituents about proposed changes and to listen to feedback. These changes affect almost everyone's lives, we pay for Medicare through payroll deductions and for other programs through taxes. We have a right to give feedback.
The other letter focused on trump's (will not capitalize his name) war against the news media and the exclusion of specific media from meeting with Spicer today. The point was made that Shimkus needs to step up and confront trump on trying to muzzle and vilify the news media. Plus, it was restated that Shimkus needs to hold town hall meetings.
The representative said that we were the fourth group from Charleston today.
April also visited Shimkus' office.
Facetime meeting with Rep. Shimkus
March 10, 2017
Four of us from the Huddle Group (he limited the size to 2-4) spoke with Shimkus for 19 minutes via Facetime (we were going to use Skype but we couldn't get the connection to work.) He's a polished politician, able to respond quickly, though not necessarily logically.
Ellen began with the recent resolution (#38) that Shimkus co-sponsored allowing coal companies to dump pollutants into our water and asking what was his rationale behind poisoning our water. He claimed that under Obama, the EPA was anti-coal and just making it harder for coal miners to do their job by over-regulating them. Ellen countered with seriously doubting that the EPA made those regulations just to make the miner's jobs harder. No response from Shimkus on this.
Judy began her turn with Shimkus's quote on how men shouldn't have to pay for prenatal coverage and he replied, “That's right”. Judy pointed out that women had to pay for men's prostate screenings. We also argued that insurance companies do not let you pick and choose your coverage, but Shimkus hopes that vibrant, free enterprise in the insurance market will make it work.
Melissa further explored the insurance question and explained how a 24-year old doesn't know what coverage they need, so cherry-picking your coverage is not a system that will work. She gave several real life examples demonstrating how well the ACA works and the replacement will not. Shimkus denied those issues and said that Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) would solve the problem of paying for the high deductibles that go with the most affordable health plans. He didn't seem to understand, no matter how many ways Melissa tried to explain to him, that a majority of Americans cannot set aside the $5000 he thought they should all put into an HSA. Judy also brought up Planned Parenthood and asked why it was targeted for defunding among all healthcare facilities. Shimkus argued that even though no federal money is used for abortions at PP, the federal money they do receive keeps the facilities open and therefore be able to provide abortions. He thinks other health clinics can pick up the slack in providing birth control and women's healthcare should Planned Parenthood disappear. He didn't know if the new healthcare plan would provide free birth control as is required under the ACA but thought that you could choose a plan that might offer free birth control.
Barbara held off on her questions in favor of the topics that Judy and Melissa were covering.
Ellen closed with asking about H.R. 669, the bill Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, but Shimkus wasn't aware of this bill. She then asked about H.R. 610 which concerns vouchers for public education. Shimkus says he supports public education but didn't seem to understand or wanted to duck the issue of how vouchers could destroy public schools. When asked if he would stand up for public schools should the federal government try to get rid of them, he replied that the federal government only had a small part in the issue of public schools.
We thanked Shimkus for his time. He was getting ready to fly home. He said this was his first time communicating with constituents by something like Facetime. We encourage everyone to try contacting him this way, but be prepared for multiple rescheduling.
We neglected to chide him for the inefficiency of talking with his constituents in groups of four and pushing for a town hall meeting instead. This would be a good closing statement for anyone who gets to talk to him. This meeting was discouraging because Shimkus is not going to change his mind and just spins anything we say to his viewpoint. Still, this meeting was worthwhile in order to try to build some pressure. Many more need to contact him and continue the pressure. Request a meeting at https://shimkus.house.gov/contact/email-me. If you are more comfortable writing than speaking, write a letter to the editor about Shimkus and send him a copy. Melissa is also writing a letter to the editor to push for more and larger meetings so that we can have a more thorough discussion about the many topics that are going to have dramatic effects on us.