Town meetings provide valuable input

Published 8:02 am Monday, August 20, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
Last week, several members of my staff and I began our most recent series of 20 town hall meetings throughout the First District, bringing our total over the past four and a half years to 170 meetings.
I am very appreciative of everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to come out and visit with us, many of whom came armed with some insightful comments and tough questions. Everything I heard at these meetings indicates the First District is as always keeping close tabs on what is happening on the national stage.
Two of the biggest topics of conversation were ones that have been major stories in the news recently – immigration reform and the ongoing Global War on Terror.
I think nearly everyone in south Alabama will in some way be affected by one of these issues or at least has formed a strong opinion on them.
Immigration reform has certainly become a hot-button topic with passionate views on both sides of the issue. The Senate began to consider immigration reform earlier this summer; however, due in large part to the number of calls, emails, and letters from concerned constituents, the Senate voted not to move this bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
I truly believe immigration reform can only be achieved by first securing our borders and enforcing the laws we already have on the books. Unfortunately, the likelihood this divisive issue will be considered by Congress before the 2008 presidential election is slim.
Next month, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador in Baghdad, will submit a progress report on the troop surge, which deployed an additional 20,000 American troops to Iraq to help secure Baghdad. I look forward to hearing exactly what progress has been made and what the ambassador and the general need to ultimately be successful in Iraq.
Certainly, the comments provided at these town meetings, as well as the letters, emails, and phone calls my offices receive each week, are very important as I weigh in on these and many other issues affecting our district, state, and nation.
I would like to be able to say that everyone who attended the town meetings agreed with my positions on these and many other issues. In several cases, some people did not and offered their own views of how things are and what needs to be done to fix them.
This is one of the remarkable things about these town meetings – and of our system of government, for that matter: the ability to disagree on a variety of issues and still at the end of the day remain unified.
When you look at the sometimes heated exchanges that occur on the floor of the House of Representatives, or the arguments that occasionally occur at local city council meetings and county commission sessions you have to wonder and be amazed that anything ever gets accomplished.
Things do get done, however, and often because of differences of opinion. Few laws have ever passed without first hearing from the opposing sides. Indeed, I could not effectively do my job as your representative in Washington without first hearing all the points of view from the folks in south Alabama.
At the end of the day, such disputes make our towns, cities and the entire country stronger and better than it was before. The views raised at these town meetings are no different – our opinions may vary and we may disagree over how to fix the problems facing us today, but in the end we're all still Alabamians – and Americans.
Staying Prepared During Hurricane Season
Just in the past week, we have seen tropical depressions and hurricanes form in the Gulf, and as I'm writing this column, Hurricane Dean looks to be headed for the Gulf. This storm should serve as a reminder for us to continue to be prepared in the event a hurricane strikes south Alabama.
As we all know, the effects of a hurricane can be reduced if you and your family plan ahead and know the steps you should take before, during, and after any natural disaster.
I encourage you to prepare a disaster supply kit, containing items such as water (at least 1 gallon daily per person), food (including non-perishable and canned items), a can opener, paper plates and utensils, blankets and pillows, clothing, first aid with medicines and prescription drugs, toiletries, a flashlight with batteries, battery operated radio, fully charged cell phone with an extra battery, cash, keys, important documents in a waterproof container or waterproof plastic bag, and insurance documents.
Please remember my office and I stand ready to assist you. You can reach us toll free at 1-800-288-8721, and we'll be glad to do all we can to be helpful.
My staff and I work for you. Let us know if we can be of service. Visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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