Log in Subscribe

Buchanan brings town hall to Parrish Community Center


PARRISH - Mary Borden is angry.

Buchanan town hall
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan talks to people on Saturday morning at his town hall meeting in Parrish.

Republicans need to stop being so quiet, the Palmetto woman said, and start speaking up about what's going on, and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan needs to speak up and stop the Democrats.

Tom and Cecilia Wickert of Parrish had a simple message for the GOP: "Stand up and fight."

At the Parrish Community Center on Saturday morning, more than 300 people showed up, almost all of them supporters of the 13th District representative, and the majority of voices were raised against the Democrats' plans for not only health care, but the economy, support of ACORN and much more.

The main hall was full to overflowing. Using a ticket system, several people got a chance to address Buchanan directly with their questions and comments, and there was time for a couple more people to talk to him.

After the town hall formally ended, people surrounded Buchanan and told them their stories.

During the town hall, those picked to speak talked about illegal immigration and how many illegal immigrants are using emergency rooms to get health care, as well as the need to keep them from accessing a reformed health system.

Buchanan noted that while President Barack Obama has promised that there will be no access for illegal immigrants in a reformed system, it's not in writing.

On a stool next to the podium sat a giant "book," with the text of H.R. 3200. It had quite a heft and people came forward after the meeting, opened it and tried to read and understand the lawyerly language that would change America's health care system.

Ken and Gail Darga of Parrish were among a group who opened it at random, and Ken said none of it made sense to him.

"I was reading one page," he said. "It's one complete circle, going around. It says nothing. That's on page 334.

"One person could not read this in three days. They're asking for 72 hours to read a bill."

Gail said she didn't think it should be passed. "I think there's a need for health care reform but I don't think this is the bill that will do it."

Buchanan town hall
Tammi Vaughan gives Buchanan her views at the town hall meeting on Saturday.

Others who spoke said that while there was a need to reform the health insurance system, there was also a need to avoid the big cutbacks to Medicare that have been talked about to pay for the new system. Others expressed concern about veterans' medical benefits and there was much talk about the Medicare Advantage plans, which several people said they were in and satisfied with, but were concerned that they'd be taken away.

Buchanan, who said at several points in the event that he was not a "professional politician," said the atmosphere in Washington is to work fast and not worry about the details, describing late-night bills for TARP and the stimulus package that were pushed through quickly.

On one vote, he said, members were voting on aid to Africa and the number grew from $15 billion to $50 billion.

"I don't have a lot of confidence in government," he said. "I'm there. I see it every day."

Voice of dissent

Tammi Vaughan of Parrish said the thought that people wanted something done.

"It's the medical costs themselves that are making the insurance costs ridiculous," she said, citing the high costs for aspirin in the hospital.

She tried to make the case for a public option and single-payer coverage, but some people tried to shout her down and began to heckle her.

"I believe the people who are against health care reform are scaring the elderly," she said, and some of her comments again were again drowned out by shouts and more heckling.

Buchanan said that he was against a system like Canada's or Britain's where he claimed that the government decides who gets care and rations it based on cost.

It's the economy

The economy and jobs were also mentioned, with Borden describing how her grandson, a recent graduate, has been unable to find a job, and when he finally found one at a pizza place, it closed down.

Buchanan town hall
Gail and Ken Darga look through the health care reform bill on stage after the formal town hall ended.

Buchanan replied that jobs should be No. 1, and that support of small businesses was key to reviving the economy. For many small businesspeople, he said, the problem is that health insurance coverage is way too expensive.

"The best social program is a good-paying job," he said. "I'm still very bullish on Southwest Florida."

A few people mentioned oil drilling, and Buchanan said he was opposed to it because of the threat to the local economy from the loss of tourism and quality of life. That comment was not well-received by those who advocate drilling, and he said he knew it.

Gathering ideas

Afterward, Buchanan said he preferred the "smaller" town hall meetings like the one in Parrish to the ones that drew thousands of people because it was easier to meet with people and talk with them.

He said he had heard several good ideas at his town halls, including a story from a woman who joined with several people in her church to pool their money and make a deal with a doctor for care. Those kinds of ideas, he said, are needed more often, and he said he was going to look into the concept.

As for some kind of reform, Buchanan said it was necessary, but the bill sitting on the stool on stage was not the way to go. He said a recent reform bill had 560 amendments.

'It's a farce'

Borden said she wanted to see more action from the Republicans.

"Get in there and get mad and start fighting those Democrats. They're taking our country away from us and it seems like no one's doing anything about it, and it's so frustrating," she said. "I'm upset about health care, I'm upset about Obama flying all over the country on our taxpayers' money. I'm just mad, period.

"I think they should get Chris Dodd and that Barney Frank and that (Tim) Geithner and get them out of there. They're crooks."

She said Democrats get away with things while Republicans get punished.

"That guy from North (sic) Carolina. What he did was nothing compared to what Ted Kennedy did. Yet they want to throw him out," she said.

Later, she called a reporter over and said she wanted to say something else.

As for oil and health care, "They can dig in my backyard if they want to," she said.

"And this health care thing is a farce. It's a joke."

Buchanan will be holding two town hall meetings on Oct. 3, his office said Friday. The first will be at 11 a.m. at Myakka City Elementary School, 37205 Manatee Ave. in Myakka; and the second will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Historical City Hall Auditorium, 225 Main St. E. in Wauchula.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.