Mobile office to let campus voice political concerns

by Brett Martin

The mobile office of Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., will visit Coffman Memorial Union on Thursday, although the congressman himself won’t be there.
The visit — to address concerns and questions about federal programs — is part of Sabo’s effort to increase his visibility on campus. He plans to have the mobile office, including one or two staff members, available in the union at least three times a year, said Olin Moore, a staff member.
“This is part of an outreach effort to the University campus,” Moore said.
Sabo, 58, who represents the 5th Congressional District, created the mobile office three years ago in order to bring staff members from his Minneapolis office into the communities he represents, including the University’s Minneapolis campus. The St. Paul campus is part of the 4th Congressional District. The 5th District encompasses Minneapolis and some of the inner-ring suburbs, including Richfield and St. Louis Park.
People who voice concerns at the mobile office will be treated the same as if they came directly into the district office, Moore said.
Indeed, questions and concerns from students — including those about financial aid and student loans — are sent by the mobile staffers directly to Sabo in Washington, D.C. Although Sabo’s staff reads mail and writes responses, Sabo does read the correspondence, said Derek Lick, Sabo’s press secretary.
The mobile office “is an extension of Sabo’s office,” Lick said. “The University is just one of the communities we go out to.”
Lick said the mobile office visits the University about three times a year and staff members have been very happy with the response on campus.
“The student body is very active and very involved in the issues,” Lick said.
Jack Uldrich, who received the 5th District’s Republican endorsement and will likely face Sabo in the November election, said the mobile office is “no great service if he sends his staff” instead of making personal appearances.
“I am willing to go over there (to the University) in person,” said Uldrich, adding that because he is younger than Sabo, the student body is his natural constituency. Uldrich is 31.
The visits are not politically motivated, Lick said, but are “purely an official duty — not a campaign by any means.”
Sabo and his staff are prohibited by federal law from using the mobile office to campaign for re-election, said Lick, adding that people who wish to make financial contributions are referred to another office.