By Nathan Warner
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, stopped by Olde Main Eatery in downtown Elk River Saturday morning to host a "Coffee with the Congresswoman" event with her 6th District constituents.
The event promised constituents the opportunity to "share ideas, comments and concerns with their representative to Congress."
As Bachmann stepped into the dining room, Big Lake resident Alan Hunter was the first person to shake her hand. "I'm here to tell you I support the "Rails-to-Trails" program for Big Lake community," he told her, "and I hope you'll do the same."
"Thank you for coming!" Bachmann smiled, "I'm so glad you did."
Olde Main Eatery owners Greg and Jennifer Ashfeld kept the orders of sausage, eggs and hash browns coming to the packed diner as Bachmann visited with her constituents. Greg said Olde Main Eatery was chosen for the visit after Victoria Berg of the Elk River Chamber of Commerce recommended them to Bachmann's office as the "happening" place in Elk River on a Saturday morning. "We're just honored to have that reputation in the community," he said.
Democratic Republic of Congo native Nalenge Wagbala waited at a table with friends for his chance to talk to the congresswoman. Currently living in Monticello and working in home repairs, Wagbala said he came to share his concern for his people still living in the Congo. "There is so very much violence, sexual violence, and corruption in the Congo right now," he said, "and the world is silent. No one will talk about it. My people are being brutalized, murdered and raped, but everyone is looking the other way! Why is the world silent?"
According to the International Rescue Committee, 5.4 million people have died from 1998 to the present in the Second Congo War, making it the second deadliest conflict in world history after World War II. Wagbala told Bachmann he hoped she would continue standing up for justice and the innocent around the world.
Across the room, St. Michael City Council Members Nadine Schoen and Chris Schumm sat at a booth having coffee. They wanted to share their desires for school equity and transportation needs in the I-94 corridor. "We've been going to the Minnesota State Capitol a lot and working with legislators on these issues," Schoen said, "but we also want to keep it local to get action done." Schumm added that their biggest issue is for a more level playing field for schools in Elk River, St. Michael and Albertville that don't have as much property value as other districts have.
Dayna and Brent Koehn brought their daughter, Palyn Joy, with them to ask Bachmann to represent all of her constituents, not only the ones who voted for her. "I want to see more compromise," Dayna told Bachmann, "I know the health-care bill was passed in a very partisan way, but I want Republicans to be involved with it. I think we need to fix health care and we can't afford waiting another 10 years for that to happen." Bachmann nodded, "Well, the health care bill was passed without time to read it," she said, "which was the real problem --no one was allowed to discuss it in a rational way." Bachmann agreed that Democrats and Republicans must work together to fix health care.
Afterwards, Bachmann issued a statement saying, "It was a pleasure to speak with dozens of Elk River residents on Saturday. I heard directly how health-care reform is affecting families. I also heard first-hand how unemployment and limited job opportunities are causing distress for some residents. I pledge to continue my fight in Washington to bring certainty and common sense solutions on these and countless other issues."