O’Halleran Launches Blue Dogs Virtual Rural Opportunity Roundtable Series

September 1, 2020 by Dan McCue

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., made a little history on Monday by launching the Blue Dog Democrats’ first-ever virtual rural opportunity roundtable series. The discussion with local and tribal leaders focused on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on rural and tribal communities.

“There’s no better place to start these discussions than with those who best know these communities and who are leading the fight against the crisis: our local and tribal leaders,” said O’Halleran, the Blue Dog Coalition’s co-chair for Policy. 

“Rural communities make up the very fabric of America; their success is our nation’s success. In Washington, I’m fighting to make the voices of rural Arizona families heard,” the centrist Democrat said.

Joining O’Halleran for his discussion with local leaders Monday was Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, of New Mexico, co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity.

The roundtable series is part of an ongoing effort by the Blue Dog Coalition to develop a forward-looking plan to strengthen rural American. Key to this effort will be helping these areas to build a strong economic foundation and creating good-paying jobs.

According to O’Halleran, the coalition believes crafting the plan requires more than hearing from policy experts. The roundtable series will afford coalition members the opportunity to talk to those who are experiencing issues first-hand in their communities.

Among the issues to be discussed throughout the series are lack of access to broadband in rural communities, health care, small business and entrepreneurship, and the outdoor economy.

After the session, Gov. Brian Vallo of the Acoma Pueblo, commended the Blue Dog Coalition for reaching out to tribal leaders and listening to their concerns and perspectives.

“There is a great need throughout Indian country … but we embrace the challenge,” Vallo said, adding the tribe expects to emerge from the pandemic era “still strong, still focused, and optimistic for better futures for the future generations of our Acoma people.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma of the Hopi Tribe. 

“COVID-19 has definitely brought to the surface a lot of the challenges that not only the Hopi face, but people across Native America,” he said.

“This is particularly true of health care, but also extends to infrastructure, water issues, and technology,” Nuvangyaoma added.

“I am really thankful for the Blue Dog Coalition for inviting us to at least bring some of these issues to light,” he said.

“What we really like about the Blue Dogs is that they’re problems solvers and they’re willing to reach across the aisle,” said Matthew Chase, CEO and director of the National Association of Counties.

“One of the toughest issues we’ve been facing with COVID-19 is that, unlike other historic events in this country, this has become a partisan exercise,” Chase said. “And what we really need is the help of the Blue Dogs and others to come across the aisle.

“For some reason, aid to local governments has become partisan. And we really want to make sure that it’s a nonpartisan or a bipartisan issue,” he continued. “What we’re looking for is investment. We’re not looking for spending for spending’s sake. We are looking to help stabilize those that need our assistance today … while making strategic investments that help the United States compete in the global economy for years to come.

“If rural areas are left behind, the United States will never reach its full potential,” Chase said. “Rural areas provide the food, the fuel, the fiber, and many important things for this country … and yet they are really being left behind. So we encourage the bipartisan approach to problem solving the Blue Dogs have undertaken.”

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