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Hold real town halls – Opinion – The Florida Times-Union

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Sunday’s Editorial: Rep. John Rutherford handled himself well in a meeting. He needs to hold real town halls.

It’s frustrating and mystifying that U.S. Rep. John Rutherford refuses to hold town hall events.

He told an informational session in Nocatee recently that he doesn’t want to give a platform to his opponents. That’s weak.

Rutherford said he has spoken to hundreds of organizations and many people who have come to his office, including the progressives of the Indivisible group every month.

Also, he dislikes people who shout.

The Nocatee event was closed to only Nocatee residents, which just looks suspicious.

Come on. He’s a former sheriff. Certainly he can handle a little protesting. There is a way to conduct these meetings. The Nocatee meeting even had sheriff’s deputies standing in the back.

In contrast, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a large animal veterinarian, held town hall events in Gainesville and emerged unscathed.

Yoho’s chief of staff, Kat Cammack, running for Yoho’s seat, promises to continue to hold town hall events as well as conduct live telephone and social media events.

Here are some of the subjects Rutherford addressed with our commentary:

Top priorities: Rutherford lists health, then infrastructure as top national needs.

Health care: Rutherford doesn’t want to repeal and replace Obamacare, he wants to repair it. He wants to cap some prescription drug prices for seniors and insulin for diabetics. Costs need to be addressed, like unaffordable deductibles. He opposes surprise hospital bills and proposes arbitration or setting median regional prices.

Infrastructure: “It’s horrific what’s going on in the country,” he said about the nation’s roads, bridges, water-sewer facilities and the like.

Mental illness: Rutherford said it is an outrage that jails are the largest mental health facility in most communities. He called for insurance parity for mental illness.

Veterans: He supports the PAWS Act, which will increase access to service dogs for veterans with PTSD. That would benefit Nocatee’s K9’s for Warriors. The VA is conducting endless studies before supporting the bill while 20 veterans die by suicide every day, he said.

Family issues: Rutherford supports doubling the child tax credit. “We need to take care of women who are pregnant.”

National deficit, debt: The debt has hit $22 trillion, up $2 trillion since President Donald Trump took office. The annual deficit is $1 trillion; it was $585 billion in 2016. While both parties are complicit, Republicans have gone tongue-tied on the subject during the Trump presidency.

Rutherford said economic growth is the best solution for the debt. However many nonpartisan studies have said that growth alone won’t do enough.

Achievements: Rutherford is proud of bills he sponsored to improve school safety. As a former sheriff, he has credibility on these issues.

Partisanship: Rutherford walks the walk on bipartisanship. He said there are good people on both sides as well as extremists. He obtains a Democratic Party co-sponsor for every bill he introduces.

He is a member of a bipartisan working group in the House but it only has about 30 members. He was “aghast” to discover that Republican and Democratic members of the House have separate lunch rooms.

Military: “We don’t need to be in any more wars,” Rutherford said. He supports increased spending on the military.

Term limits: Unlike Yoho, who is stepping down after term-limiting himself, Rutherford said he supports term limits only if it applies to everyone.

Robo calls: Rutherford called this “a serious problem.” Congress just passed a bill to stop them.

Minimum wage of $15: He said it “would destroy the economy,” and got some pushback from the generally supportive audience.

Vaccines and abortion: Rutherford is sympathetic to parents who don’t want their children vaccinated. “I don’t believe that is the government’s responsibility, it is the parent’s responsibility,” he said. “Off the cuff, I don’t like the government telling us what to do.”

But the same appreciation for personal rights doesn’t apply to abortion. He said he is “pro life.”

Gun control: Rutherford supports background checks but not a system that will lead to a national gun registry.

Rutherford spoke and took questions for two hours at Nocatee, admitting when he didn’t have all the information, which is a rare trait for a politician.

He can handle this. He should hold real town hall meetings.

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