LAKEWOOD RANCH — More than 200 East County residents packed Lakewood Ranch Town Hall for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s town hall meeting May 22.
Residents shared their concerns about jobs, the economy and health care, among other issues, at the event, which was the eighth in a series of meetings Buchanan has held since December 2008.
“The bottom line is people aren’t listening in Washington, and I’m here to (listen),” Buchanan told attendees. “The better I stay connected to your thoughts and opinions, the better I can serve you.”
After one resident lamented the federal government is coming after states’ rights and the president is authoring more bills than Congress, Buchanan said even some moderate Democrats feel they have lost their voice.
“It seems everybody is looking to Washington for all the answers, but we need to keep it closer to the people,” Buchanan said.
Several residents talked about the impacts of the new health care reform bill, but attendees also turned their focus to the recent BP oil tanker leak.
Buchanan noted BP received several exemptions, and he has called for a thorough investigation of the issue. He also said he’d be interested in researching alternative options for stopping the leak, which were suggested by attendees.
Other topics raised by residents included illegal immigration, concerns with the patent and trademark office, questions about the federal stimulus package and its impacts and balancing the federal budget.
Sarasota resident Nancy Milan, who attended with her husband, John, said the meeting was encouraging.
“I’m thrilled he had this because I’ve been so frustrated,” said Milan, who said she’s concerned about the socialist tendencies the federal government seems to be taking. “You hear what happens, but you don’t have a place to go to ask for change. It made me feel better that we have an opportunity to speak.”
East County residents Leslie and Erik Anderson, who recently moved from New York, said Buchanan’s meeting proved to be a stark contrast from one they attended with their former representative, U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, who started a town hall meeting by saying he was supporting the health care bill despite his constituents’ views.
“Congressman Buchanan is much more forthright than the politicians we interfaced with in New York,” Leslie Anderson said. “There, the congress people set the stage and that was how it was run. When it came to speaking, it had to be in their terms.”
And for some, such as GreyHawk Landing resident Paula Lohnes, the opportunity also proved educational in another way. She brought in her children — Nathan, 3, and Anna, 8 — waving American flags and glittery “USA” signs.
“I’m trying to teach them early to get involved in politics and to know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s so important.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at email@example.com.
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