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Letter: Republican lawmakers poised to skip Legislative Town Hall in DL

As a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization, the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters strives to provide educational opportunities in which all points of view are heard and respected with a common goal of understanding and building consensus.

Our policy is that when one elected official or candidate or a political party declines to participate, the League's event goes on as planned. The reason for this is two-fold: our primary mission is voter education and civic engagement; and, the League and voters cannot be forced to cancel events by those who refuse to appear.

It is with this policy in mind that I'm writing to share with readers the specific efforts the League goes to in hosting nonpartisan events.

Planning for our April 15 Legislative Town Hall began February 20, with an invitation email to Sens. Kent Eken and Paul Utke and Reps. Paul Marquart and Steve Green. Sen. Eken and Rep. Marquart immediately agreed. After receiving no response, a follow-up email invitation was sent to Rep. Green and Sen. Utke on March 4. Dates and locations were flexible.

On March 17, Sen. Utke responded, "We are planning our in-district town hall meetings for the Easter week at this time. We will publicize the list of locations as soon as everything is confirmed."

It is very concerning to learn that Sen. Utke and Rep. Green plan to hold just one meeting with constituents during the week-long Easter recess. It will be in Bagley on Wednesday, April 17 at 6 p.m. at the Great Northern Bar and Grill.

Again the League contacted the Legislators encouraging them to visit Becker County given the distance to Bagley. Rep. Green declined. Sen. Utke has not responded.

The Detroit Lakes Forum on April 15 at 7 p.m. at LaBarista will instead feature District 4 and 4B Legislators Eken and Marquart who are holding eight town halls across their district on April 15.

The League of Women Voters will continue to invite all elected officials and candidates to our events as we work to educate and inform voters. We are disappointed that rural Becker County's voters will not have an opportunity to hear from our Legislators without the necessity of a drive up to Bagley.

We regret that we were unsuccessful in our efforts to have Sen. Utke and Rep. Green participate and encourage voters to contact them directly with your comments and concerns. — Terry Kalil, rural Detroit Lakes

(Kalil is voter service chair for the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters)