Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Van Hollen Town Meeting

Kevin Gillogly kindly sent me this report on Cong. Van Hollen's town meeting:

Monday February 26, 2007: Congressman Chris Van Hollen had a Town Meeting in the Kennedy HS cafeteria. It was an overflow crowd of 300+. Not the same type of crowd as was at the Leggett Town Meeting at Northwood a few weeks ago or even the O'Malley event at Einstein last month.

This was issue-based advocacy and few--if any--civic federation activists. My first clue was walking in the parking lot outside of Kennedy. Several cars had bumper stickers that were anti-war and calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. There were home-made signs stating anti-war positions plastered on seemingly every wall of the cafeteria.

Former US Senate candidate, Kevin Zeese, was there and it seemed as though most of the vocal folks there were anti-war folks that he helped draw to the event. It had a Green Party/Populist Party feel--in part-- to it. There was a film crew that at first seemed to be from Chris' office. It was not. It was "an independent media" group that seemed to be tied to the antiwar activists.

The Police Chief was there standing quietly in the back. No other elected officials. Perennial candidate Deborah Vollmer was there. So was Alec Stone, a former District 19 Candidate for Delegate.

Questions were on immigration (why don't those folks learn our language type), personal grievances and personal advocacy -- Childhood Arthritis, Haitian Democracy, etc. There was one guy who was anti-North American Union of US, Canada and Mexico (as if anyone in the crowd would in favor of it). He was later seen handing out the New American, a John Birch Society publication.

The most dramatic event was a group of Military Families who are against the war. They are called Military Families Speak Out. Five members of the organization stood up when they made their plea to bring the troops home. The speaker was a mother whose son was killed in Iraq. Chris had attended his funeral.

The last questioner finally brought up the passing of Chris' mom last week. Chris' 84 year old father--Chris Sr.--sat in the front row for the duration of the Town Hall Meeting.

Still of the fifteen or so questions around half were on the war and ways to bring them home. Some pointed out that Chris had supported funding for the war and were against that. Chris' position has been to follow the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Commission Report.

There was a GOP partisan who asked some question that was pro-Bush; a close look at her notebook revealed a Gov. Ehrlich color brochure. She was neither strident nor overbearing just pointing out a difference in opinion. The anti-war crowd neither hooted nor hollered at her, as was the case at the O'Malley event when someone outside of the norm spoke.
Another local activist, who I think prefers to remain anonymous, also attended the meeting and sent along this:
At the beginning of the meeting, the congressman informed the audience that his mother had passed away before starting his opening remarks. We could see that it wasn't easy for him to be there, but he said his mother would have wanted him to go ahead with the meeting. The audience was sympathetic, but did ask plenty of questions - mostly about Iraq. Many people wanted him to cut funding for the war, but he said a funding cut would not get past a filibuster or veto. Still, Van Hollen emphasized his vote against the war and said he would do whatever he could to get us out.
Regardless of the content of the meeting, Van Hollen deserves a ton of credit for seeing us under such difficult personal circumstances.