'Congress on Your Corner' with Rep. Larson

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Feb. 7, 2011
Ramon Makol, a South Windsor resident, came by to thank Rep. John Larson for his help with an immigration issue.  Photos by Frances Taylor.
Ramon Makol, a South Windsor resident, came by to thank Rep. John Larson for his help with an immigration issue. Photos by Frances Taylor.

Don Gonsalves, a South Windsor resident, was one of the first to arrive at U.S. Rep. John Larson’s (D-1st District) "Congress on Your Corner" meeting at Shoprite on Main Street. Feb 5.

"I don’t agree with [Larson] on most things, but I’m interested in what people have to say…to get an indication of how people feel about the issues," said Gonsalves, 74.

One of  Gonsalves' main concerns is making sure Social Security and Medicare are still there for his children and seven grandchildren, he said. The truth about our country’s financial situation "needs to get out there," and "politicians have been afraid to tell people to face up to the facts," he said.

"We seniors have it pretty good right now – we have Social Security, many of us have pensions, and Medicare pays our medical bills," Gonsalves said. "I don’t think most seniors know how much the government actually pays them. It’s a great benefit, and I don’t think many people appreciate what it really does."

Paul Mounds, press secretary for the Congressman, said similar events are held weekly throughout 27 towns that make up Larson’s district. The event is often held at a library or town hall, and the Congressman is present on a biweekly basis.

"'Congress on Your Corner' allows people to voice their concerns in a direct way, and it helps us establish our caseload," Mounds said. "We handle about 1,600 cases a year, helping people with Social Security disability, veterans' issues, Medicare, and things like that."

About a dozen people waited in line to speak personally with Larson. The store provided security for the low-key event. An East Hartford police officer made a brief appearance.

After a shooting in Arizona last month at a similar event that left a Congresswoman critically injured, "we are mindful of security, but we have not had any problems," said Beth Monchun, district aide for Larson.

Joseph St. John, who owns Hobby Tyme Distributors on Oakland Street, said he wanted to speak with Larson about what he sees as bureaucratic regulations that affect his business.

"I don’t want any help – I just want those stupid agencies off my back," St. John said.

Ramon Makol, a South Windsor resident, came by to thank Larson for his help with a family member’s immigration problem.

"My nephew needed to come here from India to take his residency exam to work as a doctor," Makol said. "Congressman Larson helped us work with the Indian embassy so he could get his visitor’s visa to come here and take the test."

Larson spent about two hours talking with constituents. "I’ve talked with people about veterans' issues, housing issues and Social Security," Larson said about the day’s event. "Jobs and unemployment have come up, as well."

Nancy Collins came to ask Larson for help finding employment. Collins, who worked for 20 years in the customer service field, has been out of work for months and has run out of unemployment benefits. "I’ve been looking for a job but I haven’t found anything, and I don’t have anything coming in," she said.

As she sat speaking with Larson, the staff provided her with forms to fill out, and numbers to call for help. "They gave me some referrals to training programs, and someone to contact in their office next week," she said. "I’m willing to try anything.''

Rising heating oil prices are affecting local people, Larson added. "One thing we can do legislatively is to close the off-shore loopholes that oil companies are using to fuel speculation and drive up prices," he said.



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