Yesterday, legislators around the state held town hall meetings. I’ve lived in the 5th Legislative District for a year now – and expect to live here for many more – and thought it was a good time to actually hear what my state representatives are up to. I showed up at 10am at the Maple Valley Community Center. Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne (my two Republican state reps) were just starting to speak to a crowd of about a dozen people.
The meeting started off with Anderson talking about the budget difficulties. As you’d expect, Anderson and Rodne believe that our budget problems are related to Democratic overspending (something that Goldy has repeatedly pointed out is not true). One particularly interesting accusation that they made was that the cuts to the budget this year were specifically put in areas that would be most painful (health care and education) in order to scare people into raising taxes in a November referendum. Rodne seemed to believe that we could’ve balanced the budget merely by cutting L&I and the Department of Ecology. That sounded like the equivalent of folks saying that we can eliminate the federal budget deficit by cutting NPR and arts funding, but I’ll let my wonkier friends evaluate that claim.
Anyway, Rodne then asked for a show of hands on who in the room wanted to solve the budget problems by raising taxes. My hand went up and about half the room uneasily raised their hands half-way up with some uncertainty. Rodne then asked me if I was a firefighter (what?). I said no. He asked if I was a public union worker. I said no again, somewhat perplexed by his questions.
The meeting continued on. The political affiliation of the attendees wasn’t overly obvious, except for one gentleman wearing a Republican pin on his jacket. I was expecting it to be largely a conservative crowd, however it was probably closer to 50-50. Either way, it was a small crowd. At one point, the older couple in front on me, who had both worked in the public sector, spoke up to challenge some of the prevailing anti-union rhetoric coming from the front of the room.
The husband (who actually was a firefighter) got somewhat agitated with Rodne in what was the only really tense part of the entire meeting. I spoke up to defend him – primarily because Rodne was attempting to claim that the budget problems we have aren’t related to nationwide problems in the economy, which is absurd. Rodne once again asked if I was a firefighter. This time I more fully elaborated on the fact that I’m a private-sector employee. In response to me, Anderson actually put together a somewhat rational response.
Rodne then asked the room if they agreed with what was happening in Wisconsin. I saw only 2 hands go up, although a gentleman in the back spoke up saying he didn’t understand what Rodne was asking. It’s possible that some in the room thought Rodne was referring to what the protesters were doing, but Rodne seemed genuinely surprised not to see a roomful of hands go up.
Well, my son is waking up now, so I’ll try to wrap this up. At the end of the meeting, I went up to speak to Anderson about my pet pieces of legislation, the drug law reform measures currently making their way through the legislature. I asked him if he was going to support the legalization bill, which would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state budget, lower crime, and protect families. He first copped to having been a ‘head’ back in the day and said he could potentially support the medical marijuana bill, but couldn’t support HB 1550. I asked him why and his response was that there were soccer moms, and “that gateway thing”, and because meth was really, really bad. So after an hour long town hall of two Republican legislators accusing Democrats of playing politics instead of dealing responsibly with the state budget, it took me roughly 15 seconds to get Anderson to do the same.