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Town hall meetings have been successful

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
By the time this column appears in print, my staff and I will have added another 15 stops to our list of 250 communities where we've held town hall meetings over the past 16 years.
And as has been the case in years gone by, this means of communicating and staying in touch with my constituents has once again proven to be both educational and beneficial.
Granted, each community along the way seems to have a different need or concern.
Residents on Dauphin Island, for instance, were much more interested in beach re-nourishment and dredging than were residents in Thomasville. 
The folks in Saraland, on the other hand, were far more interested in talking about problems with Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare, than they were the channel depth in Mobile Bay.
But at every stop along the way, the response to our visit was courteous and the support for President Bush, in particular, as well as what we're trying to do in Congress, was especially encouraging.
In fact, most people who turned out for our three-day tour of the district seemed genuinely pleased with the new tone of civility and respect the Bush administration has brought to Washington. 
Surprisingly enough, there were  very few comments about Mr. Bush's predecessor.  It seems most people in south Alabama are ready to look to the future, not relive the past.  This was a positive development as well. 
Without question, our new president has extended his honeymoon much longer than most national prognosticators had predicted, especially given his narrow win last year. 
Part of the credit for this should go to the fact that Mr. Bush has kept his message simple and direct, rarely deviating from a well-crafted script.
For instance, even though President Bush has been busy pushing his tax cut lately, he reiterates at every chance that education remains his number one priority. 
And the president backs his words up with action by offering the largest budget increase for any department to the Department of Education. 
But rather than just throw more money at the problem, Mr. Bush has been insistent that we must increase power at the local level. 
As he said last week, "one size does not fit all when it comes to education of the children in America."
He has also emphasized more accountability, saying we've got to start looking for results, not just progress.
Reaction to the president's tax cut proposal has been well received throughout the First Congressional District as well. 
While support for eliminating the so-called death tax is probably stronger in south Alabama than it is nationally, the across-the-board reduction for every taxpayer was popular as well. 
Quite frankly, the proposal seems both "fair" and "moderate," two words that were often used to describe the president's proposal.
Many people with whom I spoke indicated their desire for a bolder, more comprehensive reform, such as a flat tax or national sales tax.
But most people seemed to understand that this is simply the first step in a long process toward tax simplicity and fairness.
All in all, the response to our town meetings was very favorable.  While there were fewer people at some stops than we've had in previous years, the majority of people who came out brought some good ideas and suggestions along with them.
As always, special thanks to each of you who took time out of your busy day to come and welcome us to your community.
Town meetings are one of my favorite "perks" of being a congressman you get to go out and talk to the people you represent and engage in an open and honest discussion about some of the current problems facing America.  And most times you also come away with a better feel for what your constituents really think about a given issue.
Anytime my office can be of service, I hope you won't hesitate to give us a call.  We've got a toll-free number to our district office in Mobile, 1-800-288-8721.  Please don't hesitate to use it whenever we can be of assistance.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.