Hoyer meets with con­stituents at town hall

Hot top­ics in­clude Rus­sia, ACA and ed­u­ca­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Con­gress­man Steny H. Hoyer speaks at a town hall meet­ing at Reid Tem­ple AME Church on April 11.

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