Opinion Pieces

Longview Daily News Guest Column: Town hall meetings tonight, Thursday

In early January, we were all shocked to learn a gunman had opened fire on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a crowd of innocent bystanders at a public event. The event was a "Congress on your Corner" meeting where, in the tradition of town halls, citizens are able to personally share their ideas, questions and concerns with their elected representatives.

The ability for public servants to meet the citizens they represent is the lifeblood of our democracy. Still, the Arizona shooting sparked a discussion over how Congress and the public should respond to this increased awareness of security threats. Some reacted by saying members of Congress should increase barriers between themselves and the public to make everyone less vulnerable to attacks. Others wondered whether we should be hosting town hall-type meetings and public events at all. I didn't agree.

When I ran for this office, I pledged to maintain an open door to all of the residents of Southwest Washington — regardless of their party or position. Town hall meetings are instrumental in helping me keep that pledge. Starting this week, I'll be hosting town halls so that the citizens of Southwest Washington can talk with me about solutions to our biggest problems.

Meeting my constituents through town halls and other public events and meetings is my favorite part of this job. It's also where elected leaders get most of our best ideas. Southwest Washington faces a number of challenges, like skyrocketing budget deficits, overwhelming health care costs and massive unemployment. In Cowlitz County alone, 12 percent of the people who are looking for work can't find a job. Good ideas are what we need right now.

We will take some lessons from what happened in Arizona. I've instructed my staff to closely coordinate with local law enforcement whenever we hold public events to help maintain safety for all attendees.

However, we won't let this terrible tragedy stop us from getting to work on finding solutions to our biggest problems. We must keep moving America forward. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

Please join me at my first congressional town hall this week, and bring your thoughts, ideas and questions. We won't forget what happened in Arizona, and we will continue to mourn those who were killed and pray for the continued recovery of Rep. Giffords and the other survivors of the shooting. But we also have work to do in putting our country back on the right course. I hope to see you at my town hall, where together we'll make sure that democracy marches on.

Please join me at the Longview town hall meeting tonight (Feb. 1), 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Cowlitz PUD building, 961 12th Ave., Longview.

To read this article at tdn.com, please click here.