Rep. Overstreet dominated the town hall meeting he hosted with Rep. Buys and Sen. Ericksen. Commanding the center stage, he answered the most questions and acted as the middle ground between Rep. Buys peppy optimism and Sen. Ericksen’s disdainful grimace at each question. Actually, you know what, rather than doing a straight report, let me just cut to the chase here in helpful bullet form.
The Basics: Just shy of 70 people attended the forum. Sheriff Elfo, and Mayor of Lynden Scott Korthuis, were in attendance. The public officials spoke for about twenty minutes before opening it up for questions. Most of the questions fell into two categories, “Why are you cutting (education, support for the deaf, teacher pensions)?”, and “Thank you for all that you do. Give ‘em hell!” Sen. Ericksen rolled his eyes on more than one occasion to the first category of questions and Buys visibly brightened at each of the second.
The Shockingly: Doug Ericksen managed to make it through an entire town hall meeting without threatening any journalists with arrest. Unlike last year.
The Positive: The only time anyone applauded was when Jason Overstreet made a point about limiting the federal authority concerning indefinite detention of American citizens. He spoke about opposing Obama’s recent encroachment on our civil liberties and got a nice round of applause.
The Negative: I had an opportunity to ask Rep. Overstreet about his recent bill that would allow people to pay debt with gold coins. My question for Rep. Overstreet was, “How many jobs does paying bills with gold coins create?” Without missing a beat, Rep. Overstreet said, “Good question.” He expounded about how this bill would bring our laws in line with an obscure provision in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 10, which forbids that any state ”make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts”) He said that allowing people to pay in gold “restores confidence in our economy.” Nowhere in his answer did he ever refer to “Jobs”.
The Bat-Shit Crazy: One audience member, who blew me off when I tried to contact him for a follow-up, asked this question, “What are you going to do about this law where someone can marry a building, are we going to have a referendum?” Rep. Buys tried to shift it, “I think you are asking about the same-sex marriage law . . .” But the audience member continued, “But the law allows people to marry buildings if they want to.” Overstreet stepped in and said, “Well, it will be put up to a referendum, and we will see.”
The Predictable: Sen. Ericksen expressed his desire to liquidate public lands and state parks to make up our state deficit. Overstreet expressed a general fear that “Society is coming apart at the seams. We’re losing it folks, read article one of the Constitution!” Ericksen and Overstreet both said that “The Dept. of Ecology is completely out of control!” Overstreet stressed the cultural differences between “those in Olympia, who want to charge BP ‘a million dollars here, a million dollars there’ and those hard-working people in Whatcom County, struggling to survive.” Overstreet took a swing at Rep. Hague, accusing her of removing education as the top priority for our state.
The Vaguely Surprising: Rep. Buys, in response to a question on single-payer health care, he expressed his support for allowing private insurers to offer their services as a menu for people to choose from in some sort of exchange or market. Ericksen, probably noting that this sounded suspiciously similar to the Affordable Care Act, jumped in and quickly changed the subject to a voucher program.
Conclusion: Honestly, I was a little dispirited. It seemed to me that the only person that was truly listening to each of the questions from the audience was Rep. Buys and the other two didn’t let him say much. None of the representatives offered any new information, just general rehashes of their campaign speeches from two years ago. In short, everyone was just walking through the paces.
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