Town halls held without GOP congressman in attendance

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Recess is typically a quiet time for lawmakers to get away from the Capitol and catch up with constituents in their home districts and states.

But, one month into the Trump administration congressional town halls held nationwide the past few days have become hotbeds of protest.

Many leaders are just not showing up, while others might wish they hadn’t. Among those town halls were two held on Wednesday in Columbus and Hilliard.

District 12 organizers held their town hall at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, where a cardboard cut-out of U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi was present on stage.

“Keep your promise! Keep your promise!” shouted people at the event.

AmandaLynn Reese was one of the many speakers concerned about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“It will be detrimental to your community if it’s gone. Please help us,” she said.

Reese is a cancer patient who’s in remission now, but still needs medications to stay alive. She said a 30 day supply of her generic medication costs around $4,000, but with ACA she said she pays just $28 a month.

“If the ACA is repealed without some sort of plan in place to protect people with pre-existing conditions, I will probably survive a year to two years at best without my medications,” said Reese.

Organizers said they asked Rep. Tiberi to come and hear their concerns, but he did not show up.

Spokeswoman for Tiberi, Olivia Hnat said he had scheduled back-to-back meetings with constituents to discuss health care reform during the past several weeks in his Central Ohio office.

“These are important opportunities for Rep. Tiberi to listen to their concerns, respond to them directly and engage in a constructive conversation,” she said.

In Hilliard, District 15 organizers had a cut-out of U.S. Representative Steve Stivers at their town hall.

“We made every effort to try to get him to come and granted there was only about a week he did get the invitation, but still we are his constituency, the people he is serving in government and we demand an opportunity to be heard,” said organier Chad Queens.

Spokeswoman for Rep. Stiver’s Courtney Whetstone released this statement:

“This is not an event organized by our office and they only invited Congressman Stivers a few days ago.  He will not be attending because of the late notice and other commitments on his schedule. Steve wants to continue his active dialog with the constituents of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. So far this year alone, Congressman Stivers’ office has communicated with constituents through 9,934 constituent letters sharing where Steve stands on the issues. Furthermore, he has held three telephone townhalls already this year, which dialed out to more than 61,000 constituents, with more than 11,200 constituents picking up the call. We have two more teletowns scheduled in March, anyone who is interested in participating in one of our telephone townhalls can call our Hilliard District Office at 614-771-4968 to get added to the call.”

“He wants to have a constructive conversation with his constituents, however tonight’s event was organized by a Democrat running for Hilliard City Council and had speakers slated including the former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman.  That doesn’t sound like the start of a constructive, non-partisan conversation.”

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