Thousands Pack the Stands, Dial In to Town Hall Meetings

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Thursday night Congressman John Salazar held a telephone town hall meeting to address the issue of health care. Frustrated that he did not make plans to host an in-person meeting in the Valley, a local conservative group held a meeting of its own.

Hundreds packed Brownson Arena for a town hall style meeting hosted by the Western Slope Conservative Alliance.

"We're doing our civic duty by being her and speaking out for what we believe in," said Dani Wright, who attended the meeting.

Just like town hall meetings across the country, those who showed up had a chance to go up to a microphone and ask questions about health care reform and other policies -- almost all of which were not in favor of proposed health care legislation.

"Tell us you will not vote through anything that adds to the national debt," said Silt Mayor David Moore during his question.

But the group says unfortunately, no members of Congress were at the meeting to answer them.

"I was appalled by the fact that [Salazar] couldn't be bothered to show up," said Wright.

The conservative group recorded each question and plans to send a DVD and written copy of them to the offices of Congressman John Salazar and Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.

"I do think it's going to make an impact," said Wright.

But some people did get to ask Salazar a direct question during a Western Slope telephone town hall meeting he hosted Thursday night.

"If you had to vote on this bill as it is tonight, how would you vote?" asked Tim from Grand Junction.

Some asked general questions about what the health care bill would do. Others offered suggestions on what they think it should do. And a few spoke out against it.

"This is going to cost millions of dollars that we don't have," said a woman named Shirley. "My kids aren't going to be able to pay those taxes."

"We don't want to balance the budget or pass this cost on to our children," responded Salazar. "We want to make sure that we take care of it ourselves."

Salazar's staff says about 16,000 people participated in the teleconference town hall meeting -- some of which dialed in from the WSCA meeting.

"Number one I wanna hear what he's got to say to other people," said Debra Topai, who called into Salazar's town hall while at the other town hall. "Number two, I'd like to ask him a few questions myself."

Salazar's staff says he was able to get through roughly 20 questions during the hour long call -- most of which were asked by residents of Mesa County.

During the call, Salazar was asked about his position on the bill making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I have some real problems with it," said Salazar. "I think there still needs to be more discussion to move forward on a piece of legislation. One of the things that we've called for, as a matter of fact -- we were the ones, the Blue Dog Coalition, that asked that we slow the process down so that we could listen to constituents and try to figure out which is the best way to address this issue."

The third-term Democrat was also asked his opinion of a controversial government-backed public option.

"I would be in support of a public plan if that was the only way we could create competition," said Salazar. "But let me say the main concern is to make sure that everyone receives health care at reasonable prices."


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