Hoyer meets with constituents at town hall
Hot topics include Russia, ACA and education
No topic was off limits at Congressman Steny H. Hoyer’s (D-Md., 5th) town hall meeting at Reid Temple AME Church on Tuesday evening. Approximately 150 constituents gathered at the local church, along with 2,000 viewers on Facebook Live, to ask questions which covered a number of topics ranging from the country’s budget, President Donald Trump’s taxes, affordable health care, the environment and national security.
Jennifer Jones, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Commission for Women, served as the moderator. She said Hoyer is a true champion for women’s issues and families in Maryland and throughout the country.
“I know that many people in our community are concerned about the future,” Hoyer said. “That’s why I felt it was important to host a conversation on a wide range of issues with constituents in the Fifth District to discuss how I am pushing back on the dangerous Trump agenda as well as hearing from constituents about their concerns and ideas.”
“Something has been awakened in this country and what was originally anger is being channeled into real action and that is how we become productive citizens,” said Yvette Lewis, director of external affairs and public engagement for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md., 8th). “It’s April and the movement is still going strong. I feel the energy and I don’t think this is a one hit wonder. I really do believe this is something that will be sustainable because when we fall asleep at the switch we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
During the town hall, Deborah Shipman with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform and Re-Entry Round Table for Prince George’s County, said she is most concerned about people in prison who have mental disabilities. She said people with mental disabilities in Prince George’s County are being warehoused in prisons in surrounding areas. Shipman said they don’t need to be in prison; rather, more hospitals and rehabilitation centers need to be built to help them.
University Park resident Maureen Fiedler said she has been appalled particularly at the discriminatory talk by the Trump administration against muslims coming into the country.
“I think this is not only bad for our national security interests but also an immoral stance given our history as a nation,” Fiedler said.
Hoyer agreed with both concerns.
“We’re seeing the ‘fracking’ of our democracy,” said Ed Wells, a University Park resident. “We all know where the source of this is ... the subterranean source of inspiration for Trump and his advisors, the many hints of Russian connections. What will you do to bring us an investigation that exposes the truth, and I don’t mean just the petty details of who talked to who at midnight at the White House but one that follows the money all the way to the other end of the truth?”
Hoyer said getting to the bottom of the facts is absolutely essential in order for justice to prevail. “There may be nothing there but we need to know if there is a compromise of the president of the United States by an adversary that does not wish us well and I will continue to do that. I was also one of those that demanded that chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R) step aside.”
Lisa Ransom, chairwoman and CEO of the Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation, voiced concern about the future of the U.S. Department of Education.
“Earlier in February of this year legislation was introduced to abolish the Department of Education. Recently Betsy DeVos, secretary of the Department of Education, rescinded June 2016 memos by the Obama administration — protections that were put in place so that student loans could be affordable and people would feel safe. To have the secretary rescind those memos today is a signal to me and to others that we need to protect the infrastructure that keeps this country moving forward and that is education,” Ransom said.
A number of local organizations focused on advocacy and civic engagement attended the town hall and provided information on how to get involved with their work.
“I was pleased to hear Congressman Hoyer encourage citizen involvement, and talk about the effect that grassroots organizations have had on our nations political structure,” said Abena McAllister, founder of Women of Action of Charles County. “As two of WOACC’s goals are to change the political structure, and encourage more servant leaders, that may not have political backgrounds, to run for public office. Through grassroots efforts, we’ve aimed to hold our representatives accountable at all levels of government so that they are representing us, in the ways in which we want to be represented. It let’s us know they we’re on the right path.”
“I totally agree with Congressman Hoyer that this is the most dangerous time in American history,” said Laura Hart, a member of Together We Will Southern Maryland Chapter from Mechanicsville. “The Trump administration’s attack on the environment, on the ability to get medical care, on the fundamental citizenship of American Muslims, and general disregard for people of color is divisive today and destructive to our future.”
Julie Phelps, a member of Indivisible Greenbelt, said Trump has “awakened the sleeping giant.” During the town hall she advocated for getting the HR305 — Presidential Tax Transparency Act — passed, which Hoyer said he is strongly in favor of.
The Rev. Jennifer Wilder, pastor at Broadview Church in Sunderland, said Hoyer is working at the federal level on two issues of concern for Calvert County families — high-quality public education and quality affordable healthcare for all.
“Calvert County’s shining ‘gem’ is our public schools, which attract families to the county. Seventy-five percent of Americans say fix the Affordable Care Act; for heavens sake don’t repeal it and leave our families without. National measures to endanger education and health will be felt most, and must be organized against, at the state and local levels. I agree with Hoyer that this is the time to get involved in our communities like never before and I plan to run to represent Calvert County District 27C in the House of Delegates in 2018.”
“There were also concerns expressed about budget cuts to the EPA, NIH [National Institutes of Health] and education; Russian influence in our election and calls for President Trump to release his tax returns,” said Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County NAACP. “Congressman Hoyer assured the audience that he is working hard to keep the ACA, protect education issues and the environment by acknowledging climate change and the impact it has globally. I was very happy to hear the congressman express his concern for what the administration has done and how it can have a detrimental effect on the future of our young people.”
Hoyer said he is pleased to have had the opportunity to address these issues and how everyone can work together to keep the community and country safe and secure.
“These are troubling times in which we are living ... We’re not in a revolutionary war but we’re in some kind of a revolution and our country demands the best that we can give it,” Hoyer said.
Congressman Steny H. Hoyer speaks at a town hall meeting at Reid Temple AME Church on April 11.