WHEELING - Congress too often considers the needs of urban centers and ignores the concerns of rural communities, according to Rep. David B. McKinley.
McKinley, R-Wheeling, on Wednesday addressed a breakfast gathering of the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce at the Station Grille in the city. About 25 people attended.
"People in Washington don't quite understand our values ... ," McKinley said. "It's an undercurrent in Washington. It's not always Republican versus Democrat or liberal versus conservative - it's not that. There's another undercurrent, and that's urban versus rural centers. What we don't have in West Virginia is an urban center."
WELLSBURG VISIT — U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-Wheeling, left, is greeted by Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne, center, and Poke Beall of Scott Lumber before speaking to members of the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday at Station Grille. - Joselyn King
While some cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have as many as 16 representatives, there are only three representatives for the entire state of West Virginia. And the issues in urban America are different from those in rural American, he continued.
"There are more representatives from Pittsburgh than there are the entire state of West Virginia," McKinley said. "So the priorities in Washington often get caught up in the urban centers. They want to talk about mass transit ... some of those issues. In the rural areas, we want to talk about sewer and water lines. They don't get it. They don't understand why communities don't already have sewer and water lines. They have them."
He believes Washington is turning its back on smaller communities.
"We have lost touch with our America," McKinley continued. "America is not those big cities. America is just ... places that are off the map. But there are people who live there and have the same level of concerns they do."
McKinley pointed to the Federal Aviation Administration's announcement this week that it would shut down 149 of the 516 air traffic control towers across the nation on April 7.
"Where did they shut the towers down?" he asked. "Rural America. So who is going to be in jeopardy? People in rural America who use those towers."
McKinley also said 70 percent of the towers slated for closure are in congressional districts represented by Republicans.
"Is that coincidence?" he asked. "I don't know. But I can tell you my phone is already ringing off the hook telling me 'back off' from doing any more cuts. We can't afford to do this anymore. People are putting pressure on us to stop spending reductions and raise the debt."