By John Howell
Pizza isn’t on the regular menu at the Greenwood Inn in Warwick. But when pizza is a staple at Congressman Jim Langevin’s luncheons and more than 80 people show up, the chef makes pizza.
A good deal more than pizza was served up Saturday as a steady stream of constituents poured in, hoping to tell Langevin what’s on their minds or to seek his help. Some were still crestfallen over the election results and, as Meg Geoghegan, communications director, said, there’s not much to say.
“We’re not happy about it either,” she said.
But such a fatalistic outlook wasn’t the case when it came to issues raised by Jim and Katie Bonner of Cranston, Roger Morin of Warwick, Marie Hennedy of East Greenwich and Paul Kelley of Warwick.
Langevin went from table to table engaging in one-on-one conversations. Following were staff members who recorded constituent contact information and the particulars of the issue being raised.
The Bonners attended because they were told by the City of Cranston that concerns over the reactivation of a rail spur leading to the former Ciba Geigy plant was a federal issue. The rail line has been inactive for at least 25 years. Neighboring homeowners have improved the area over the years, clearing brush and planting trees and shrubs. Jim Bonner said Safety Kleen, a company that collects and stores used motor oils from service stations, cut down their plantings. Safety Kleen is clearing the tracks so that they can contract with the Providence Worcester Railroad to transport the oil. To date, they’ve used tanker trucks.
Bonner said people are concerned about contaminated soil and safety, and more than 80 people attended a meeting at Park View School last week to discuss the issue. He said the company didn’t have answers. His wife said there have been a high number of cancer deaths in the neighborhood, something she attributes to Ciba Geigy being in the neighborhood years ago. The pharmaceutical company ceased operations in the 1980s.
Langevin’s office didn’t have an immediate answer for the Bonners. Seth Klaiman, the congressman’s district director, said the office would follow up with the City of Cranston and examine what jurisdiction the federal government has in the matter.
Langevin’s office will also follow up with Roger Morin, who said the Veterans Administration denied payment for medication his doctor prescribed to fight multi-myeloma, a cancer that Morin believes resulted from his exposure to Agent Orange. Morin is a veteran Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam. His exposure to Agent Orange happened stateside, he said.
While Morin’s doctor prescribed the generic drug, Celecoxib, he said the VA refused to cover its cost because it is “too expensive.” He said he is living off ibuprofen and it is “tearing up my liver.”
“It’s outrageous to say it’s too expensive,” he said.
A veteran submariner, Paul Kelley came to lunch to impress upon Langevin how important Electric Boat operations are to the state.
“If we lose Electric Boat, we have lost the only lead yard for the construction of submarines,” he said. “No one knows how to build subs like we do.”
Marie Hennedy, who led the West Bay League of Women Voters for years, attended to urge Langevin to do whatever he could to address the problem of homelessness.
Justin Oakley attended in hopes that the congressman, who he pointed out understands the issue better than most because of his disability, would help spread the word that home aids, such as grab bars and chair lifts, can prevent falls and other accidents that end up costing Medicare thousands of dollars. He advocates that such aids should qualify for Medicare funding and speculates it could save millions in medical payments while improving the quality of life for seniors.
“A $150 grab bar can save a fall and a $35,000 hip replacement,” he said.
Bernard Rimmerman of East Greenwich was there to tell Langevin he believes House Representatives should be limited to three terms or six years.
“I feel there should be some new thinking,” he said.
Katie Albert, who fields constituent calls in Langevin’s office, was one of the staff keeping tabs on the issues raised. She said that soon after the election the office received a flurry of calls over President-elect Trump’s selection of Steve Bannon as executive chairman of management and strategy. Since then, the political calls have simmered down.
Informed that the Greenwood Inn doesn’t usually have pizza on the menu, Albert thought she better sample it. She gave it a thumbs up. However, by the time Langevin reached the last of the tables, the pizza was gone. His staff ordered him a BLT to go.