After a year in Washington representing the 10th congressional district, Cong. William Keating came to Martha’s Vineyard Monday with a message: Like most Americans, he’s angry. Angry about the dysfunction he sees in Congress, he said, and threats to what he calls core American values, opportunities for education and advancement.

“We could be moving the country in the right direction and be more helpful . . . the bad news is, because some of the ideologically-centered individuals in congress that have their beliefs supercede common sense and the very foundation of our country, they’re creating a situation where those initiatives aren’t being done. Does that make me angry? You bet your life.”

“The American Dream is that you have a chance. That chance is being cut off,” Mr. Keating said during a conversation with Gazette editorial staff that ranged from nationwide issues that resonate on the Island, like the health of small businesses and access to education, to issues more Vineyard-specific: access to health care and ongoing negotiations for Islandwide cable television access.

Bill Keating congressman
Dan Wolf, Bill Keating and Tim Madden field questions at the Capawock. — Ivy Ashe

In the last few months, congressional redistricting led Mr. Keating and his wife to relocate from Quincy to their home at Monument Beach in Bourne, where the congressman said he is now a voting resident. The congressman will run for re-election in November for the new ninth district that does not include Quincy and will incorporate parts of New Bedford as well as the Cape and Islands. (Mr. Keating said he might be the first congress member since the 1800s to represent the Cape area while actually living there.)

The new district integrates coastal areas and is largely agricultural, Mr. Keating said. And rather than changing his priorities, he said, representing a new district “reinforced them a little bit, because my priorities have been focused, when you look back, on jobs.”

Congressman Keating Riley Donegan Conor Smith
Military honors: Riley Donegan and Conor Smith will attend U.S. military academies, thanks to a congressional nomination from Mr. Keating. — Ivy Ashe

Jobs are a recurring theme for him. “To me, the job issue just resonates all the way through all the other issues,” he said.

To aid small businesses in this area, Mr. Keating— who was appointed to the committee on small business — said he hopes to ease U.S. restrictions that make it hard for international travelers to obtain visas. “We’re leaving money, and jobs, on the table,” he said.

Mr. Keating was one of four sponsors for the AGREE [American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship] act, a bipartisan initiative that would “free up capital for innovative industries” through tax considerations for things like education and technology. “Even a portion of it is a step,” he said, touting the jobs that small, innovative businesses could provide.

Locally, hope might rest with infrastructure jobs, such as dredging ports and bridge repair, and biotechnology, especially in marine industries. “There’s still a great opportunity down the road for marine technologies, and marine business growth, in this whole region,” he said. “This whole region can be a center, the way the Silicon Valley was a center years ago, for marine [industries].”

Mr. Keating took issue with the science behind fishing allotments. “Science isn’t verified the way it should be,” he said. The fishing industry is small businesses, he said, and “there has to be some predictability.” He is against the current conservative approach, and for taking a step back. “If you’re not sure about your facts, why would you then compound the stakes by taking the most conservative approach in terms of allotment?” he said. Taking more of a middle ground approach by relaxing some of those allotment restrictions, he said, would “have a significant impact on what quotas would be.”

He also acknowledged that geography compounds Vineyard issues. “There is a thread of issues here that all deal with access,” Mr. Keating said.

The congressman weighed in on one of the most salient local access issues: ongoing negotiations with Comcast to approve Internet access. He praised the Edgartown selectmen for opting out of talks with Comcast until a contract includes service to Chappaquiddick and suggested he will help with the effort, saying, “We’ll continue to leverage whatever influence we have.” And he voiced his own personal frustrations with Comcast, saying that he, too, is plagued with cable television problems. “I can’t tell you if my TV’s going to work,” he said with a laugh. “My wife has them on speed dial.”

Turning serious and on a far larger scale, Mr. Keating said families are having discussions about not being able to afford higher education.

“And that’s not what our country has been about, for the last half century, at least. What’s at stake right now — we’re at the crossroads — is the very essence of our country, it’s the American Dream. And that dream is opportunity, and hope, and right now, there’s increasing blocks to that staircase,” he said, continuing:

“The staircase is one of opportunity. Now some people have many more flights than others to get up that staircase. Some people have the elevator available to them. Some people are born on the top floor. But the issue we have right now is not to evict the person on the top floor or shut down the elevator, but to make sure that staircase is still open, and right now, in congress, funding for education is being cut and threatened at a very fundamental level.”

Mr. Keating’s trip included a visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and a meeting with veterans at the American Legion. Later in the day, he was peppered with questions at an all-Island meeting at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven. Joined by state Rep. Tim Madden and state Sen. Dan Wolf, the congressman fielded questions from a crowd of well over 100, on subjects that included wind and solar panels at the state forest and the airport, frustrations about federal regulations on small businesses, funding for the restoration of coastal banks and beaches and higher education access on the Vineyard. One young resident voiced his displeasure with parts of the National Defense Authorization Act, which received a yes vote from Mr. Keating.

When it comes to his second year in office, Mr. Keating offered few predictions. “It’s about the direction we’re going,” he said, cautioning against quick fixes. “It’s not going to happen by the next election.”