A Busy February for BPC’s ACE Program
In February, BPC hosted two reciprocal American Congressional Exchange Trips. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) visited Rep. Robin Kelly’s (D-IL) district in Illinois and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) visited Rep. Ed Cases’ (D-HI) district in Hawaii.
Illinois 2nd Congressional District Trip Recap
Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District roughly follows the old Illinois Central railroad line, which departs from Chicago, runs along Lake Michigan to the south and into rural communities like Kankakee. Railroad history and its present-day importance loomed large during Rep. Latta’s reciprocal American Congressional Exchange trip to visit Rep. Kelly. Rep. Kelly toured his northwest Ohio district last fall.
During the trip, Rep. Latta observed numerous freight line operations, warehouse and distribution centers, trucking facilities, and logistics centers that are critical to the economy of the region. Rail lines also cross arterial roads in the south suburbs (known as Chicago Southland), which can cause inconvenience for autos. Rep. Latta experienced this first-hand when the vehicle he was riding in was delayed before Rep. Kelly offered a detour.
The first morning stop for the two members was the Steve Warrick Family Farm in Monee, where they met with a group of farmers and leaders from the Illinois Farm Bureau to discuss water and energy policy and innovations in land management and genetic seeding.
In Richton Park, a diverse, middle-class suburb, Reps. Kelly and Latta talked with local mayors about what support they need from the federal government, in partnership with state and local government. Additionally, they talked about the impact of recently passed federal legislation like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act.
The next focus of the ACE trip was healthcare, a shared interest on which Reps. Kelly and Latta have collaborated. The two members visited Family Christian Maternal Health Center in Harvey, a Federal Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provides family medicine, maternal child health/wellness, OB/GYN, and pediatric services. Both came away impressed with the quality medical care the Center offers to underserved populations.
From there, Reps. Latta and Kelly met with leaders from regional “safety-net” hospitals. These hospitals serve low-income populations, regardless of patients’ insurance coverage, ability to pay, or immigration status. The hospital leaders talked about the nursing shortage, but also how the agencies that “supply” nurses to hospitals are incredibly expensive. Issues lingering from the COVID-19 pandemic are also driving up costs for these hospitals.
The last two stops of the day were transportation related. First, a tour of the Ford Torrence Avenue Assembly Plant, the company’s oldest assembly operation. Over 4,000 skilled employees make the Lincoln Aviator and Explorer SUVs on this 113-acre site. The visit included a conversation about the advent of electric vehicles and what steps Ford is taking to balance electric and traditional fuel vehicle production.
The trip then ended where it began – with railroads. At the Pullman National Historic Park, managed by the National Park Service, Reps. Kelly and Latta learned about the first planned industrial community in the U.S., home to the Pullman Palace Car manufacturing plant, scene of a landmark labor strike in 1894. The visit offered Rep. Latta the opportunity to see how federal resources are being used as a catalyst to inspire neighborhood reinvestment and revitalization.
Hawaii 1st Congressional District Trip Recap
An epicenter of multiethnic culture, Indo-Pacific national defense efforts, and vast natural resources, Hawaii’s mostly urban-suburban 1st Congressional District sits along the Pacific Ocean. Rep. Stewart’s reciprocal ACE trip to visit Rep. Case solidified shared political interests between two very different districts and constituencies.
The first stop at ‘Iolani Palace highlighted the importance of preserving national historic landmarks. Through several in-progress restoration projects, Rep. Stewart experienced the amount of care and attention required to preserve a landmark recognized as the spiritual and physical multicultural epicenter of Hawaii.
To cap the evening, Rep. Stewart and Rep. Case met with a number of tourism industry leaders to learn about the ramifications of COVID-19 for the tourism industry, and how local leaders are working to establish a healthy balance of tourism and environmental protection. That sentiment is shared in Rep. Stewart’s home district.
The next morning, Reps. Stewart and Case hiked to the iconic Diamond Head Summit to discuss natural resources, land management, and funding. Park administrators pointed out several areas of the trail in need of repair and maintenance and emphasized a large number of daily search and rescue operations, similar to those in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (in Rep. Stewart’s district). The two have been collaborating on this shared issue with H.R. 439, the Public Land Search and Rescue Act, in January 2023, which would establish a program to allocate resources to remote search and rescue activities conducted on U.S. Department of Agriculture or Interior-managed lands.
Continuing with the significance and importance of preserving native culture in Hawaii, both members toured Ke Kula Kaiapani ‘O Anuenuel, a native Hawaiian immersion school. The visit included a conversation with the school’s principal on balancing American and Native Hawaiian cultures in the curriculum.
The trip then shifted its focus to national security, visiting Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield, recognized for its strategic location. The post is home to the 25th Infantry Division as well as the headquarters for the U.S. Army in Hawaii. Rep. Stewart and Rep. Case received a top-level briefing on Army priorities and strategies in the Pacific from Brigadier Gen. Jeffrey VanAntwerp. Serving on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Stewart left impressed with the Army’s wide range of responsibilities, collaboration with the military of other key nations in the region, and commitment to preserving national and global security in a vital part of the world.
From there Rep. Stewart and Rep. Case toured Pearl Harbor by boat with the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel J. Paparo. In addition to being briefed on the Navy’s operations, they paid respect during a somber visit to the USS Arizona memorial.
The next stop featured a moderated discussion with Rep. Stewart, Rep. Case, and students from Hawai’i Pacific University, University of Hawai’i, and Chaminade University. The lively discussion centered around open thought and dialogue on college and university campuses. Reps. Case and Stewart left the discussion hopeful for the next generation of participants and leaders in our democracy.
Keeping the spirit of an open exchange of ideas and issues, the trip ended at the Daniel K. Inouye Pacific Center for Security Studies. The visit featured scholars from the center and focused on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Commands’ objective of defining and addressing regional security issues and concerns. Rep. Stewart joined the scholars in a lively discussion of where the United States is positioned in regard to these matters. “Shakas” (a common Hawaiian hand gesture of positive vibes and greetings) and mahalos (thank yous) filled the air as both members ended the discussion with an appreciation of the center’s hard work, especially given the enormous challenges ever-present in the Indo-Pacific region.
Stay tuned for more ACE trips coming this spring!
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