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Sarasota Saturday, Sep. 12, 2009 8 years ago

Town hall meeting remains civil

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Three days after the leaders of the county’s Republican and Democratic parties issued a call for civility during health-care forums, that call received its first test.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, held a town hall forum Sept. 11, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to discuss health care and the economy.

The majority of the 1,500 in attendance remained civil, asking questions of the congressman in an orderly fashion and peacefully holding signs, both critical and supportive of President Obama’s health-care plan.

But there were small pockets of people who yelled at each other across the performing arts hall, shouted down people asking questions that they did not agree with and even arguing outside as they left the building for the evening.

One notable moment was when Rita Ferrandino, chairwoman of the Sarasota County Democratic Party and who issued the call for civility, took the microphone to ask Buchanan a question.

When she introduced herself, she received both boos and applause. She began her question about health care by saying that she’s the head of a private-equity company and is in favor of free enterprise. Some interrupted her by shouting, “Then why are you a Democrat?”

That got a big laugh from the audience and a smile from Buchanan. And when Ferrandino said she believed health care was a right and not a privilege, she was loudly booed.

The crowd was mostly made up of those critical of big government and the president’s reform plan, and they made their feelings known. The audience gave loud standing ovations when Buchanan told them he was going to fight government overspending, when audience members asked him to investigate the community-activist group ACORN and when one citizen said the “president lies repeatedly.”

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].


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