July 9th Reagan National to Providence US Airways 3:10 PM

It was a quick trip to Washington DC to ‘meet casually’ with the Senate Committee on Small Business on Health Care Reform. The Committee is chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Nine stakeholders were asked to share their perspective with the committee. It was a valuable invitation for me as a Realtor on behalf of our members: more than 300,000 Realtors have NO health insurance at all. A significant number of additional Realtors have limited insurance. When one overlays that most Realtors work on a contingent fee and are self employed, the issue becomes complex and very important. Our members want and need health care reform.

To be at the hearing by 10 am on the 9th I had flown down late the night before. With air travel so unreliable, it is prudent to travel with some room for error, or better yet room for correction: (with another flight between you and the last workable “ETA” estimated time of arrival). Unfortunately, that is no longer simply prudent, it is now required. Have appreciated air travel my entire life. That is no longer true; air travel is a necessary incontinence. Airlines regardless of brand have left customer service at the curb. They cannot handle to demand, are inept at problem solving. and are unsympathetic to their customers. (That has been my experience this year with Delta, US Airways, and United). Maybe the others are better, but I would not bet on it.

After a restless sleep in a non-descript hotel room: yes, another beige room, I met with my preparation team at 8 am. It was quite interesting, because Washington has its own language and health care reform has its own vocabulary. It requires the kind of focus and attention that my Constitutional Law Course at Holy Cross required thirty years ago. We review our talking points and the approach. The setting would be a panel discussion which would require initiative on my part to participate.

Meeting began. Senators Landrieu, Snow, Bond, Shaheen, Wyden, and Hagan were there. Most had long opening statements reviewing the importance of reform. Of the nine ‘stake holders,’ DC vocabulary, only two of us were small business owners: me and a manufacturer from Louisiana. The conversation was rather direct with most of the lobbyists articulating their group’s priorities. Participated passionately: “Many Realtors, especially in Rhode Island rely on the Hope Insurance Program: I hope I do not get sick.” That said, Realtors want health care reform, but believe that cost control must be part of the solution.

Enjoyed the opportunity to share our group’s needs. My closing included an observation that it was difficult to speak to this issue, because it was hidden from most Americans by the use of language. It was hard to understand what was really being said and the use of code words made it difficult to explain even to our own members. Senator Shaheen concurred that even the Senators had a hard time understanding: “Senator that is not very comforting.” was my response.. At the very end, there was an opportunity to suggest that the ‘public option’, the government’s own insurance plan, need not be a make or break issue in the health care reform debate. If we need to give it up for reform, then so be it.

The meeting ended and I was back at the security gate at National by 2 for a 3 pm flight. As I am getting into line, Senator Reed is also in the line. We greet each other, and frankly I am surprised he remembers me. We finish the ‘screening’ and make our way to the gate. He is on his way to Providence for Senator Dodd’s sister’s wake and funeral. We talk about my trip and health care. He listened closely. We also talk about the housing market and the challenge of price stabilization with so many foreclosures and short sales. It was very gentle. It was the kind of conversation with your Senator or Representative that you really appreciate. He listened and I listened. It was a discussion of public policy and the true nature of the market. There was an understanding that policy, and lack of policy, is a choice. There was also appreciation for the complexity of our problems and our solutions. But woven into the conversation, that these problems can be addressed and ultimately solved: no blind optimism, just the kind of determination that we needed to get through this and that we would. It was frankly pragmatic and encouraging.

We both got onto the plane to make our way home. His visit home would be overnight. He sat toward the front; I sat at 18C, an aisle seat near the end of the plane. As luck would have it, there was no one in the window seat. I had had my window seat conversation at the gate..