Congressman Kim Relates to Constituent Worries: Health Care, Lack of Civility 

By ERIC ENGLUND | May 01, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill Andy Kim (D-NJ 3)

Barnegat — The parents of a disabled woman are concerned about getting adequate transportation to a physical rehabilitation facility so that she can continue to progress. A man whose young adult son was diagnosed with diabetes at 18 months worries about the continuous rise of insulin prices.

Issues such as these were raised at an April 27 town hall meeting in Barnegat Township held by Third District Congressman Andy Kim at American Legion Post 232. The 36-year-old Democrat defeated Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur last November to represent the district, which stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean, encompassing most of Burlington County and parts of Ocean County. Kim is just the second member of Congress who is of South Korean descent.

A former U.S. State Department civilian adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, Kim said one of the first priorities as a freshman congressman was to not only learn about the pressing issues in Washington, but to set up an effective infrastructure to reach out to constituents. He has legislative offices in Washington, Toms River, Marlton and Willingboro.

“I usually spend four days and three nights in Washington per week,” he said. “The rest of time I want to reach out to the people in my district.”

He estimated that within the first 100 days in office, his staff has responded to about 70,000 calls, messages and emails.

“I am also committed to holding at least one town meeting a month to get to know the people in my district and to hear their concerns and hopefully help them resolve their concerns,” said Kim, who was a U.S. National Security Council official in the Obama administration. 

Kim said he understands what’s on the mind of his constituents because he has the same concerns himself.

“My wife and I worry weekly if we will be able to save enough to help pay for our kids’ college,” he said. “My parents often lay awake at night concerned about their retirement savings and health. And I’m fearful that the American dream that gave me so many opportunities will not be there for my two baby boys I’m raising a few miles from where I grew up. I know I’m not the only one up all night worrying.”

Aside from healthcare matters, Kim said various constituents have raised concerns over the opioid crisis, a problem throughout the whole country.

“Every year, we lose about 70,000 Americans to overdoses,” he said. “In New Jersey, at least one person dies from a drug overdose each day.”

An audience member told him that he knew of someone who sought drug abuse treatment, but was told he had to wait 30 days for an available bed.

“Someone who has to wait 30 days might not make it,” said Kim. “Maybe we need more treatment centers so people can get the help they need.”

Kim said so much of today’s political discourse in Washington lacks civility, creating dysfunction.

“The biggest challenge for us is how we talk to each other,” he said. “It seems we have lost the ability to listen to each other.”

Kim said when he worked in the war zones of Afghanistan, “it didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican.”

“We were all working together focused on one mission: keeping our country safe. I have worked under both Democrats and Republicans, and I believe we need more people in government who are focused on helping our country instead of political games,” he said. “Bipartisanship is so badly needed.”

That lack of civility briefly reared its head during the meeting. At one point, a man asked Kim if he would release a formally signed statement saying the Mueller report was “an injustice and a sham,” prompting one audience member to say, “Shut up!” Kim said he was not prepared to make any statement as he is studying the report.

A woman asked Kim if he “would support paying for illegals when so many veterans need help.” She said she supported ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and complained about “illegals causing crime to run rampant,” drawing a hearty chorus of boos.

Kim got a huge ovation when he said that while immigration issues need to be resolved, “we must make sure we do not scapegoat immigrants.” 

He said that prior to the town hall meeting, he had met with a group of retired veterans at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Kim related how they talked about a 20-year-old paratrooper from Medford Lakes, Nicholas Peter DiMona III, who earlier last month died during a military training exercise in Alaska.

Kim said making the event even more tragic was that 15 years earlier, DiMona’s father, Nicholas P. DiMona II, also died during a military training exercise. He was performing a night practice in a helicopter that crashed into a thicket of trees near Fort Stewart in Georgia.

“Young Nick was 5 when he lost his father,” he said. “He honored his father by serving our country. It reminded me how it is important to serve and give back, not just in military service, but to help your community.” 

Kim also honored Bill Smith, a social studies teacher at Southern Regional Middle School who was named Ocean County 2018-19 Teacher of the Year. Kim said a congratulatory resolution for Smith, who was in attendance, was placed in the Congressional Record.

“You are a great example for our young people,” the congressman said.

— Eric Englund




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