Residents air concerns during meeting with Sen. Chris Murphy
Government shutdown, health care, school safety discussed
DERBY — The federal government shutdown, health care, global warming and school safety were among the many concerns U. S. Sen. Chris Murphy heard about during a town meeting Saturday at Derby Middle School.
The Democratic senator from Connecticut spent nearly two hours talking to residents. Brooke Rondeau came from distant Bozrah in New London County, while others like Matt McGee and Stacy Stableford came from nearby Shelton and Trumbull.
Two employees of the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury urged Murphy to push legislation that would help them get paid during the shutdown. Pat Wynn, a union representative, said many workers are single parents living paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks didn’t come Friday.
“This is the longest government shutdown in the history of our country,” Murphy told the crowd.
He said Congress passed legislation that will guarantee back pay to each of the 800,000 federal employees affected. Additional legislation that would prohibit creditors and credit rating agencies from taking action against these employees for failing to pay their bills on time is being worked on, Murphy said.
“I get it ( that) the president really wants to build the wall,” Murphy told the crowd. “I don’t agree that federal employees should be held hostage for something Congress is not ready to give him.”
He asked what happened to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. The senator said he was hopeful “Senate Republicans would come around” and get the government open and its employees back to work.
Murphy told the crowd, some of whom support Trump’s wall- building demand, that data he has seen shows the bordercrossing counties “are the safest in the country.” He said rates of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants “are lower than” those committed by native- born Americans and more people on the terrorist watch list enter the country from Canadian than from Mexico.
“The notion that the undocumented immigrants create a security risk is not held up by the data,” Murphy said.
McGee, a 17- year- old Shelton resident, was one of several speakers who asked Murphy why he was not supporting an all- in Medicare health insurance plan.
Murphy told the crowd he was in favor of offering choice — either a Medicare health care plan or private insurance. He also wants drug companies to be required to pay a portion of their profits into a pool for prescription abuse treatment.
Jennifer Magri, president of Seymour’s Board of Education, and whose daughter teaches in Bridgeport, took issue with Murphy over legislation he proposed that protects students with disabilities from being secluded and restrained.
Magri’s daughter had mailed Murphy a letter detailing an incident in her kindergarten class in which she was injured when a student began throwing things and be- coming verbally abusive.
Magri asked why aren’t more measures taken to protect teachers. Murphy told her there are better interventions than “locking a student up in a room.”
“He blew me off, just like his staff blew my daughter off,” said Magri, adding Murphy neither addressed her concerns or those of her daughter, who she said received a standardized email.
Rondeau traveled from Bozrah to ask about climate change.
“The two things that matter more than anything are global warming and voting rights,” Murphy said. “If you can’t breathe, you can’t vote.”
Stableford, a Trumbull resident, told Murphy she needs “hope and optimism” amid being fed anger, conflict and resentment daily from television news.
“Turn off cable TV for awhile,” Murphy said. While he commended investigative reporting, he said for many programs, “political news is entertainment, and entertainment is conflict ... There has been a litany of bipartisian bills passed” which he said got almost no mention on TV.
U. S. Sen. Chris Murphy speaks to the audience during his town hall meeting at Derby Middle School on Saturday.
A crowd fills Derby Middle School on Saturday as residents went to hear U. S. Sen. Chris Murphy answer questions about issues confronting the federal government.
Brooke Rondeau, who traveled to Derby from Bozrah to speak to U. S. Sen. Chris Murphy about efforts to slow climate change, speaks during the meeting on Saturday.