Bright holds impromptu ‘town hall’ meeting

Published 1:33 am Saturday, August 22, 2009

When U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Alabama) arrived in Andalusia on Friday morning, he did not expect about 15 members of the general public to be waiting for him at the city hall. Despite the surprise, Bright still held an impromptu “town hall” style meeting with local citizens, who asked the freshman congressman about issues ranging from health care to climate change.

Bright said he originally planned to visit Andalusia to meet with the mayor and city council and get their input on local issues. However, when news of the visit leaked out and members of the public showed up at city hall, Bright elected to take some of their questions.

“When we do ‘Congress on your Corner,’ we publicize it, and we’ve already done two in this area this year,” said Al Allenback, district director for Bright’s office, in response to a question about why Friday’s meeting had not been publicized. “I know there was one in March, at Ward’s Clothing downtown. The meeting we had planned today was to talk to the mayor and the city council about what their needs were, for the community. It was not intended to be a town hall meeting, but since (the public) showed up, we’re happy to take some questions.”

Bright, a “Blue Dog” Democrat with a mostly conservative voting record, told the small crowd he would vote against both the existing health care reform bill and the “cap-and-trade” energy bill.

“Health care certainly has to be addressed,” he said. “My problem with the existing bill is that it tries to do too much all at once. I say, let’s take our time and deal with these problems in increments. I would vote ‘no’ on this bill, and I have said that I would vote ‘no’ since day one.”

Bright was one of seven Democrats who voted against the “stimulus package.” However, he said Friday that he disagrees with the idea the Democratic president is instituting socialism, which led to a smattering of dissent among the crowd.

“We’re not on a path to socialism,” he said. “We would have to void the constitution and throw it out the window, before we could go to a socialistic society.

“Let’s not let the extremists control our thinking, on both sides of the spectrum. Don’t just watch one TV station all day long. When you’re watching FOX for about 10 hours, turn over to a couple of hours and watch CNN. You’ll get the truth somewhere in between.”

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams thanked the congressman for his support in securing a Department of Agriculture grant to pay for a new officer training facility.

Members of the city council also told Bright they have several projects that could use federal government assistance, including the River Falls Street renovation.

Bright will hold a public telephone town hall Wednesday at 7 p.m. Those who would like to join should call Bright’s Opp office at 334-493-9253.