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Southwest Alabama's first telephone town meeting

By By Jo Bonner
I am proud to announce that last Tuesday night I hosted my first telephone town hall meeting and the first telephone town hall meeting-to my knowledge-in the entire state, and certainly the first one in southwest Alabama.
From my office in Washington, D.C., I called residents of Clarke, Escambia, Monroe, and Washington counties, and for one hour, I was able to listen to comments and answer questions on events in our nation's capital and issues of concern to my constituents and their families and friends.
I extend my gratitude to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in this first telephone town hall meeting. Moreover, I was very appreciative that so many of you took the opportunity to ask some good questions about events currently unfolding here in Alabama and in Washington, D.C.
Over the past three and half years, I have held 136 town meetings in all six counties of Alabama's First Congressional District. The personal interaction these meetings provide cannot be duplicated over the telephone; however, this new technology enables constituents to share their thoughts and concerns with me from the comforts of their own home.
The telephone town hall meeting is conducted during the evening after normal business hours. It also provides those who are unable to travel to a traditional town meeting the opportunity to participate. In fact, during the call I spoke with two homebound individuals.
A total of 1,650 people participated. These people were given the option of talking with me by pressing a button on their telephone key pad, and I was able to talk with 25 of the 47 people who wanted to make a comment or ask a question.
Without exception, all of the issues and concerns raised during the call are indeed important not only to south Alabama but to the state as a whole. Additionally, many of them have been identified by Congress as areas that need to be addressed in the very near future.
For many, a primary concern is the high cost of gas we have all been paying at the pumps for several months now. Over the course of the hour, we also discussed jobs and the economy, pensions, tax cuts, and health care.
As your representative in Washington, let me assure you I always welcome your input and, along with my staff, will continue to do everything in my power to work with you and your leaders in county and state government.
Several participants also commented on their experiences using my office to assist them with cutting through the red tape of federal agencies. Whether it is a problem you are having getting your veterans' benefits restored or obtaining your IRS refund, my office can assist you. While we cannot make an agency decide a case in your favor, we can assist you by seeing that it gets timely consideration.
In the coming weeks, I will be holding more telephone town halls in order to reach the residents of Baldwin and Mobile counties. I also plan to continue holding traditional town hall meetings throughout the district, and as soon as I have those meetings scheduled, I will publish that schedule in a future column and on my website.
As I told the participants in the call, my staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.go.
Fairhope's 1165th Military Police Company Honored
The 1165th Military Police Company, based in Fairhope, Alabama, received the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest award bestowed upon an Army unit. The 1165th Military Company is the first unit of the Alabama National Guard to receive this award.
The award was given to the 1165th for their service during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For thirteen months, these men and women conducted high profile patrols on the streets of Baghdad and trained Iraqi policemen. During their tour, the 1165th suffered many wounded soldiers and lost one fellow soldier, Specialist Christopher Taylor.
Even in times of difficulty, the morale remained high. On Easter Sunday 2004, after packing for the trip home, the 1165th received notice that their time in Iraq had been extended. Their dedication and commitment to the cause of freedom carried them through this time and is just one example of why the 1165th is worthy of such an honor.
The Presidential Unit Citation is given to a unit of the armed forces of the United States for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. The unit must display such gallantry, determination and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.
May their dedication to the cause of freedom be an example to their families, friends, neighbors and citizens throughout Alabama and across the United States of America.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appear weekly.