I'm happy to report that I'm back from the Congressional town hall meeting, held in Denton this morning, and the video is processing as I type this.
I had concerns about some of the more radical elements attempting to disrupt the meeting, based on some emails I had seen, but the crowd of about 600 - 800 people* were fairly well-behaved, even though there was some attempt at shouting over each other, and at least one attempt by a man to provoke any union members that might be present into a fight.
Burgess spoke for less than about 5 minutes at the beginning, then took questions from the audience for the remainder of the hour and half session, staying later to speak to some on an individual basis.
Because of the overflow crowd, Burgess delivered his remarks from a stage setup outside of the Art Center. An overhead door on the side of the Center was opened up to allow an unobstructed view, and a PA system was setup to project over the sometime-chattering crowd.
The questions and applause levels would seem to indicate healthy numbers of both supporters and detractors of Health Care Reform. Discussing it afterward with some attendees who stuck around to chat, most of them thought that it was about 50/50, though I would guess it was probably more like 65/35 against reform. Both sides brought signs, and to my surprise, some were actually allowed in the building.
There was no overt campaigning by any elected official, but plenty of Burgess' supporters sported campaign wear, with at least one woman bringing in a full-sized Burgess campaign yard sign.
I had emailed in advance with my concerns about whether there would be a place to setup my camera, and whether adequate security arrangements were in place. Though I didn't receive a response by the end of business on Friday, I was pleased to see that there were what looked to be about 10 Denton Police officers present - compared to the typical single uniformed officer. In addition, there was sufficient media area to get mostly unobstructed footage.
Knowing that I'm not exactly Burgess' favorite citizen journalist, I do want to acknowledge his staff for being courteous and professional in accomodating me and the several other bloggers that were there to cover the event.
When I get the video edited, I'll post what I can, and provide more commentary on what I thought were the high and low points of this meeting.
Flower Mound resident and occasional WhosPlayin.com contributor Jennifer Giles has grown accustomed to dismissing suggestions that she run for elected office, but now a group of Democrats in Southern Denton County has started a grass-roots movement to draft her to run for U.S. Representative in 2010. This time, Giles says she is going to seriously consider running for the seat, which is currently held by Republican Michael C. Burgess.
The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats has formed a new chapter in Denton County. The Chapter’s first meeting was opened with an enthusiastic speech by Daniel Clayton, State President of the TCBD, who outlined the Coalition’s goals. “African Americans,” he said, “need to fully participate in government by voting and organizing.
Discussion versus Disruption Can we talk about the difference between discussion and disruption for a second? You see, discussion is what happens here on this blog. It happens in the letters that you send to your Congressmen. Discussion requires exactly two actions: Someone talking and someone listening - repeat as necessary, trading roles. Since a Member of Congress represents in the case of our district, some 640,000 people, it's impossible to have a regular discussion with everyone.
True, we all try. We all want our Representatives to listen to what we have to say. And with the help of news media, blogs, letters to the editor, and questions raised at town hall meetings, they do. And if that's not enough, you can call your Representative's office and ask for a meeting. Some of them are now even on Twitter and Facebook.
What we must deal with, in a civil society is that our representatives will not always see things from our point of view. Typically, they're going to fit more closely with the party that elected them. As frustrating as that can be when you know you're right, we have to live with it.
What is Disruption? When I speak of disruption, I am not talking about legally protesting in a public space. I'm also not talking about asking a tough question, or giving your Representative the third degree when you think they've done a poor job.
By way of example, these are some of the things that would be considered disruption:
- Talking out of turn at a town hall meeting. - Shouting down your Representative - Bringing signs or banners into a meeting - Cornering your Rep, or otherwise physically intimidating or threatening. - Making angry gestures - Acting in a disorderly manner - Using inappropriate language - Booing - Talking over others
Disruption is a breech of civility, and shows a lack of judgement that reflects poorly on the person, their group, and their ideas. It also reflects poorly on those groups who are encouraging it. In fact, I think it reflects poorly upon our society and the lack of civics education.
No matter how much I disagree with my Representatives, I just won't tolerate behavior that threatens the free exchange of ideas and communication with them. You may or may not respect the man, but if you want to live in America, you had better damn well respect the office, and show some class.
Congressional Town Halls in Denton and Gainesville This Saturday This coming Saturday in Denton and in Gainesville, District 26 Representative Michael Burgess will be hosting two town hall meetings.
Denton Town Hall Meeting Saturday, August 8, 2009 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. Center for the Visual Arts 400 East Hickory Street Denton, TX 76201
Gainesville Town Hall Meeting Saturday, August 8, 2009 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. UPDATED: NEW LOCATION North Central Texas College Administration Building, Little Theater 1525 California Street Gainesville, TX 76240
Given that Burgess has been sympathetic to the Tea-baggers and secessionists, even if not endorsing them, I don't expect as much trouble with one of his events as I would at the town hall of a Democratic Representative, such as Congressman Doggett.
But I'm saying this right now as clearly as I can to my Democratic friends as well as to any Republicans or Teabaggers or Birthers who plan on showing up to disrupt things: There will be cameras there. WhosPlayin may have someone there. If you lose your cool and disrupt a meeting because you're a titty baby and your AM radio spoon-feeds you hate and lies on a daily basis, then you not only run the risk of getting ejected, but you will probably be videoed, and people like me will call you out.
I would encourage people to attend if they can behave. Your tax dollars are paying for the event, and you have a right to be there and hear what the man has to say. If you can dress respectably and submit your question, wait your turn and act right, maybe you can ask a question.
There are other things you can do if you really want to:
- Consider passing around a petition or literature explaining your position. Congressman Burgess allows this even for un-American things like Secessionists calling for rebellion against the United States. If your position is less extreme than that, there's a pretty good chance you'll be alright. - Protest outside if you can do so without blocking any entrances or getting into a non-productive shouting match.
(live-blogged - please forgive the abbreviated nature)
Item #7 is considered first - was pulled from the consent agenda. Churchill residential agreeing to payment in lieu of taxes for senior assisted living facility which would otherwise be tax-exempt. Mr. Brad Forslin - available to answer questions. Durham moved to approve. Gorena seconded. Unanimously passed.
back to regular order:
Item #1 - hearing for a zone change - reidential townhouse to Medical district. Hearing closed, passed unanimously. Thornhill moved, Durham seconded. Passed unanimously.
Item #2 - Consideration of CDBG annual action plan. Gorena wanted to hear Staff presentation about funding. Plan is to continue first-time homebuyer program, $40,000 to day stay adult care facility, various street improvements.
Committee recommended approval of plan with exception of FTHB plan which will be funded again in October. Question from Thornhill about rehab of houses. We have funded that in the past. No questions or cards for speakers. Hearing closed.
Gorena moved to approve. Second by Thornhill. Passed unanimously.
Visitors / Citizens Forum Dennis Devaney - 1818 El Paso St. LV, TX Has called city about water usage. City waters College st. improvements during day and night. 1pm watering, water running down the street.
Consent Agenda Passed unanimously
Item #8 - Variance to city code to allow variance that would allow a church not to have to construct a screening wall. Unanimous.
Item #9 - TxDot reimbursement agreement for the city to operate traffic signals. Staff recommends tabling. Tierney moved to table to Aug 17th. Second by Gorena. Unanimously tabled.
Item #10 - Variance to waive permit fees for Masonic lodge race for the Children 5K run. Staff recommends approval waiving $1640. Watts moved, second by Durham - Unanimous approval
Item #11 - Settlement agreement with TNMP. TNMP wanted to increase by $24.4 million its rates. Cut way down. They want to charge recovery fees for Hurricane Ike. Durham moved. Tierney seconded. Passed unanimously.
Item #12 - Settlement agreement (second reading) with Atmos over gas rate increase.
Closed session to discuss property acquisition and economic development. (7:29pm)
A few weeks ago, I was awakened by a scurrying noise in my bedroom which turned out to be a very unwelcome vistor - a mouse.
I immediately got up and drove to the store to purchase the only mouse traps they had available - some little plastic clip-looking things which basically had a little platform for bait, surrounded by black plastic springloaded jaws.
They didn't work worth a crap, either allowing the bait to be brazenly stolen, or clamping shut prematurely. Figuring the old standby technology of the wooden trap with the spring-loaded bar couldn't possibly be worse, I picked up a pack of them, baited them with peanut butter, and set them up around my bedroom and in the kitchen.
Again, these were outsmarted by the tiny mouse, who apparently could very well lick the peanut butter without tripping the decapitator bar.
The other night, I was sitting up in my bed reading way after my bedtime when I saw the little bastard run out from under my chest of drawers, dart through the bathroom and into my closet.
Not knowing how I could physically catch a mouse, but realizing that I had to somehow stop the little turd fairy from destroying things, it dawned on me that maybe I could shoot it.
I've recently gotten a full-size-and-weight Airsoft replica of an M-16 A3 service rifle. It basically shoots little plastic BBs at about 400 feet per second, which is plenty to bludgeon a mouse, but barely enough to cause any damage in my house.
So I get my trusty rifle out, and I'm in the closet poking around, moving things and hoping to see him run out into my line of fire. But it was no luck. He was well hidden, and would not move. Nevertheless, my wife has an old chest in the closet with plenty of space under it for a mouse to run, so I fired under it several times, hoping to either get lucky and hit him, or drive him out.
I heard a giggle from the other room from my wife, who was now telling me that she's tickled to see her grown husband in the house "hunting" in his underwear late at night with a fairly scary looking assault rifle.
I went back to bed and laid back with my rifle for awhile, watching the door in case the vile rodent shows back up. I guess I must have dozed off, because I woke up sometime later with my rifle across my body. I put the gun away and resolved to get better traps.
Fast forward to last night, I picked up some glue traps and one of those little plastic numbers where the mouse walks in, but the trap door won't let him out. I spread some peanut butter on a Frito and stuck in in the trap, which I then placed behind my dresser where I had seen him run several times.
Sometime in the middle of the night - I didn't look at the time - there was a horrible racket coming from behind my dresser. I gleefully popped out of bed, muttering "gotcha, you little fucker".
The mouse apparently knew how fucked he was, because he was bouncing himself off both ends of the trap, hurling his tiny mass against the trap door hoping to escape. My next thought was "Now what?"
Well, it's Sunday night, and I've done a perfectly crappy job at following up on all of the cool stuff I wanted to share with you all. I guess you could say my give-a-damn was busted for a couple of days there.
Hot Not only has it just been broiling outside, but here lately I think I've just gotten hot-natured. I think it's all this layer of winter fat that I'm still carrying around. Sometime soon, I'm almost fixin' to do something about that - when I'm ready.
Health Care Bill I continue to be amazed at the blantant and transparent dishonesty with which health care reform is being attacked.
It is as if the American people are more concerned about how it makes them feel to have the government involved in health care, than the actual facts of the matter. But that should come as no surprise, since facts seem to matter very little to the illiterati that seem to monopolize the discussion on AM radio and Faux News.
This is very simple: - Right NOW - today - you have rationing of health care based on profitability. We have a system that is designed to cash in on procedures rather than preventive health. - It's often not a matter of people simply choosing not to buy health coverage. Insurance companies dump people all the time. You cannot buy coverage at any cost if you have certain ailments. - The government accounts for about 50% of health care spending TODAY - right now. Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans health care, military health care, government employees insurance: all "government-run". The people in Congress who are trying to convince you how bad government-run health care is are all on it. If it's so damned bad, ask them to drop their coverage and buy it through the "free market". - The proposed "public option" looks to me just like a PPO.
Anyway, it's not like the facts matter all that much to our electorate. We have the entire month of August while Congress is in recess for the right-wing scare machine to ramp up its attacks and try to scare old people.
The "Birthers" Speaking of reckless disregard for facts, I had been researching this silliness about President Obama's birth certificate. It seems there are a growing number of uneducated Southern redneck conspiracy theorists who have taken to the belief that President Obama was not a "natural born citizen" of the United States.
I was researching this, like I said because I wanted to see if there was any shred of credibility, and whether the belief was widespread with mainstream Republicans. I contacted one of the local Republican precinct chairs who doesn't mind talking to me, and asked him for his thoughts on the matter. Basically, the response was semi-ambiguous, and along the lines of "You're the first person to bring that story to my attention, but Obama could just end this by showing his real birth certificate.
I emailed Congressman Burgess' office early in the week to see whether he had a position on it, thinking I would write something this weekend. While they didn't get back to me with a response by the close of business Friday (saying "no" to health care reform is tough work) Burgess did vote yea on a House resolution honoring Hawaii as the birthplace of the President. (Most of the far right-wing radical members of Congress abstained.)
What I think is interesting is how the Republican Party so desperately seems to need the various types of crazies that are attracted to it that the elected officials who should be showing some real leadership not only put up with it, but sometimes encourage it. Here, I'm talking about racists, conspiracy theorists, survivalist apocalyptic gun nuts, religeous zealots, tax protestors, secessionists, xenophobic jingoists and so forth.
I'd just for once like to see some Republicans go after these people and return their party to truly conservative ideals rather than letting talk radio shock jocks run the show. Why do these people put up with such silliness?
Anyhow, the story seems to have reached its apex mid-week, having gone into the mainstream media and being spread by people like Lou Dobbs, who ought to be purged out like Glenn Beck.
It seems that a lot of prominent websites as well as the mainstream media have now condemned the theory and I really have nothing more to add to the story.
At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”
It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.
And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.