Congresswoman Wants Earful From Rim Residents

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First District Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick will set up shop at a table in front of the Payson Safeway from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, hoping for an earful.

“It’s a good chance for the congressman to hear what folks are saying and respond to their concerns,” said Joe Katz, who works in her office.

After her open-air, open forum meeting one-on-one with passing voters, Kirkpatrick will meet with firefighters from most of the Rim Country communities at 3:45 at the county administrative offices.

The former state lawmaker and Flagstaff prosecutor was elected last year, a Democrat in a district more often represented by Republicans. She replaced Republican Rick Renzi, who was indicted after allegedly pushing for a land trade that would benefit a business partner.

Kirkpatrick has made a point of disagreeing with both President Obama and the House Democratic leadership more than all but a handful of other House Democrats, although she has followed the party line in three out of four votes. By contrast, the three Arizona Republicans have agreed with Obama only 5 to 12 percent of the time, according to voting records complied by the Congressional Quarterly.

Kirkpatrick this year has focused on veterans’ issues and highlighted by press releases repeated disagreements with the administration of Democratic President Barak Obama. Her press releases have trumpeted votes against any restrictions on gun sales, opposition to many elements of the president’s economic recovery plan and increases in federal spending — with the exception of spending bills to increase benefits for veterans.

She has also tended to various local issues. For instance, after Payson complained that the Forest Service was dragging its feet in approving the construction of a pipeline to carry water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir across miles the Blue Ridge Reservoir across miles of Forest Service land, Kirkpatrick introduced a bill to make the federal Bureau of Reclamation primarily responsible for approving the pipeline.

Kirkpatrick also sponsored a bill to broaden a federal program that pays the salaries of new firefighters in rural areas. The SAFER grants normally pay the bulk of the cost of a new firefighter initially, with a declining federal share for the next five years. The grants normally require a substantial local match.

Congress waived the need for a local match as part of the stimulus package in 2009 and 2010. Although Kirkpatrick has consistently criticized the extent of the stimulus package, she also introduced legislation to waive the local match for new firefighters hired under the grant program in 2008 as well.

Katz said that Kirkpatrick has consistently been among the Democrats with most votes in opposition to the recommendations of Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.

Kirkpatrick voted with the House leadership 75 percent of the time and with the President 73 percent of the time and showed up for 99 percent of the recorded votes. The four Arizona Democrats have voted with party leadership between 63 and 99 percent of the time and with the President 81 to 96 percent of the time. By contrast, the three Arizona Republicans have opposed the President about 90 percent of the time and gone along with their own party leadership between 96 and 98 percent of the time, according to the Congressional Quarterly vote counts.“

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