NOTES AND IMPRESSIONS FROM FOXX "LISTENING TOUR"
From a correspondent who was there
The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Virginia Foxx "listening tour." The meeting began at 8:30 am and lasted until 9:45 am [at the Mountain House Restaurant in Boone]. The Chamber advertised the "tour" thusly:
"The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to host a Listening Tour for the Honorable Virginia Foxx on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at the Mountain House Restaurant in Boone. This is an opportunity for the Congresswoman to hear from her local constituents in a social setting. You are invited to join us beginning at 8:00 a.m. for a Dutch Treat breakfast. The program will start at 8:30 a.m. Come prepared to share your priorities and concerns with Virginia Foxx."
Ron Hester, as Chamber host (and hard-core Republican), began the meeting by announcing that Virginia had come to hear from various agencies and town and county officials and this was NOT a Town Hall meeting. He suggested that there would be 15 minutes at the end of the "listening tour" for Virginia to answer constituent questions.
WHAT THE AGENCIES SAID
In a nutshell, the Workforce Development Volunteer Career Services agency told Virginia that this year the federal government has cut them back by 15 percent, that this is "very painful," that they have had to cut back on services to people looking for work, and that they are "desperate."
The County, the Town of Boone, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Town of Blowing Rock said they were desperate for some help in water/sewer services and that there was not enough tax base to fund the astronomical costs. The County added that President Bush has eliminated Community Block Grants. This has caused a "severe impact" and "makes a difference in the lives of ordinary people" in that the Grant created 200 jobs and helped renovate homes for those with no money.
The Watauga County Board of Education said it is desperate for a new school and didn't have the money. They asked for help.
A representative for the Chamber of Commerce, spinning for Foxx's benefit, said, "taxes were a burden to small business owners."
Ken Peacock, representing ASU, was the only major pooh-bah who appeared willing to insert his tongue all the way up Foxx's alimentary canal. He thanked the congresswoman effusively for all the money she's getting for him -- $4.5 million last year alone.
WHAT FOXX SAID
She said her "time was limited," and she "was not on vacation." She said traffic was bad, and she had another meeting at the university. She blasted the Governor and took credit for all the transportation money that had come to the area, saying if it weren't for her it would have gone to Raleigh. She told the towns and county there wasn't anything she could do for them on the water/sewer crisis. She reminded us a couple of times that she grew up poor, and she told the water-seekers they needed to be more efficient, that they needed to conserve more, and that they needed to approach this regionally. She said she went to Israel and that those folks really knew how to manage water. She told us she was getting the Bamboo Road paved and that she was big on a National Heritage Area. She said that 70 percent of the federal budget in 10 years was going to be used to pay for Medicare, social security, and Medicaid, and we couldn't afford it anymore and that we would have to cut these back. She reminded us that she grew up poor and could afford health care even then. She said the problems with affordable health care were that the federal government was formed for national defense, not these social welfare things.
Constituents began raising their hands and keeping them up. Virginia ignored them all and instead called on the press.
Kathleen McFadden (High Country News) said that polls showed people were losing faith and support in the war. What were Virginia's comments in that regard?
Virginia said we were attacked on 9/11, that we are not an aggressive nation, that she didn't want to see us attacked again, that there were fascist nations in the world, that the military had an 87 percent reenlistment rate, that the war was a "tremendous success," that she was appalled at the way the media portrayed the war, that when Hitler was a factor, we were silent, and that "We are guided by the hand of God."
Christy James (WATA Radio) asked a question regarding energy -- its high cost, solutions.
Virginia responded, "The best kept secret in the world is that the economy is great. That's why gas is high." She blamed China for driving up the cost of gas. She said the good thing about gas going up is that people would be forced to look for alternative energy.
Frank Ruggiero (Mountain Times/Watauga Democrat) said that there were a lot people here today who wanted to ask questions of their congresswoman, and if she wasn't going to answer them today, when would she be having an event where they could be heard?
Foxx said she had had several "listening tours" and there would be others, but she wasn't sure when or what the topics would be.
Foxx then announced (looking at her watch) that, "Whoops -- oh, my! -- there's only six minutes left for constituent comment."
WHAT THE PEOPLE SAID
Hands were up all over the place. Foxx took a question from Perry Mixter (calling him by name), apparently because he didn't have his hand up. Perry said that a lot of the people in the room were frustrated with the direction the country had taken. Virginia responded that she didn't see any people trying to leave the country -- that, in fact, lots of people were trying to get in.
Dorothy Sagel was called on next. She talked of the draconian cuts for the poor and in Medicare and student loans, etc. Virginia said "nothing's been cut from Medicaid (we are just cutting the increases)," that "we are not hurting people," that there are "no old ladies on the streets," and that "I challenge you to show me a cut."
Then Foxx said she had to leave -- "Sorry! So sorry!"
A woman stood up immediately and complained that constituents were invited to this meeting to have their voices heard and to ask questions of their representative. She said that this "listening tour" was "a sham," that Foxx had only allowed six minutes for questions," and that she wanted to know why Rep. Foxx was afraid to answer questions from her constituents. A fellow in the back rocking a baby said, "Yeah, we can stay if you will."
Foxx turned her back on the woman. There was no answer, and the meeting ended.
People who were there to ask questions began handing in their written questions to the press. They also granted interviews to the press, primarily complaining that Foxx would not take questions from her constituents. Foxx's paid assistant told one constituent that it was called a "listening tour" because the public was invited to listen to Foxx, not the other way around. Even though Foxx stated that she had another meeting to rush off to, she granted an interview to Mountain Television Network. Anna Sagel stood right there at Foxx's elbow and on camera, refuting every single thing Foxx said.
End of Story.