Metro-East News

Liberal group offers to pay for off-duty cops. Local congressmen say town halls still a bad idea.

Mike Bost explains why he won’t have standard town halls

In this file video from May 2017, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, discusses the House health-care vote, why he's not having standard town hall meetings and the termination of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump.
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In this file video from May 2017, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, discusses the House health-care vote, why he's not having standard town hall meetings and the termination of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump.

Local Indivisible groups, which have hounded the metro-east’s Republican congressmen to hold town halls, have offered to pay off-duty police officers to provide security if the lawmakers will attend.

But U.S. Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, still prefer small meetings over the idea of speaking with large groups.

“Congressman Shimkus thinks meeting with constituents one-on-one or in small groups is a better and more productive way to discuss public policy than town hall events,” Shimkus spokesman Jordan Haverly said in a statement. “He expanded on this in a recent interview with the BND.”

The groups offered to hold town halls at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 309 in Collinsville on two Saturdays in August during the month-long congressional recess. The groups would have paid $200 for each session to off-duty Collinsville officers to provide security.

Indivisible is a liberal group that was formed by Democratic congressional staffers. Members of the group have turned out in numbers at events to challenge Republicans on their positions.

The security offer comes after James T. Hodgkinson, who lived on the outskirts of Belleville, shot at GOP legislators in Alexandria, Va., as they were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game.

Rep. Bost values constructive dialogue with his constituents, whether they agree on the issues or not. However, town halls hosted by an activist group whose stated mission is to interrupt and instigate would prove to be anything but constructive.

George O’Connor, communications director for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost

Ashley Phelps, the communications director for Davis, said the congressman prefers one-on-one or small group meetings, similar to one he had in Maryville in early June.

Phelps said town halls are usually taken over by groups on the extremes of both major parties and prevent people in attendance from getting questions answered.

“Congressman Davis does not believe town halls are a productive way to communicate or solve problems, so he will not be attending,” Phelps said. “Members of Indivisible, which is the group organizing the town halls, are welcome to participate in any of the open office hours.

“However, our office’s past experiences with this group, who is funded by Democratic super PACs and has a how-to guide ‘for resisting the Trump agenda’ on their website, is that they are not interested in having productive conversations about issues like Obamacare and how we prevent rates from increasing another 108 percent over the next four years like they have the past four or how we solve the problem of every county in the 13th District only having one or two insurers or how we’re going to sustain having 1 in 4 people in Illinois on Medicaid.”

Phelps added, “These are the kinds of issues Congressman Davis is focused on solving and if this group is interested in having a real conversation about that, then he is more than happy to have it, but just obstructing anything and everything proposed by this Congress or this president is not what is best for our country or the people in the 13th District.”

George O’Connor, spokesman for Bost, said the 12th District representative has offered to meet with members of Indivisible in his office, and that the offer still stands.

“Rep. Bost values constructive dialogue with his constituents, whether they agree on the issues or not,” O’Connor said. “However, town halls hosted by an activist group whose stated mission is to interrupt and instigate would prove to be anything but constructive.”

Bost has scheduled a telephone town-hall for Tuesday, which would be the fifth he has held this year, his office said.

We want dialogue where everyone could hear and not just the person who asks the questions.

Shannon Russell, public relations co-leader of Indivisible 12th

When sending out its invitation for the town halls, Indivisible 12th member Shannon Russell said none of the congressmen has held a public town hall, and that they “have been avoiding public accountability, since they were re-elected in 2016.”

In an interview, Russell said the group has asked that in-office meetings be recorded, “so the (congressmen) could be held accountable to their answers. We want dialogue where everyone could hear and not just the person who asks the questions.”

Russell added that the congressmen were OK with holding in-person town halls until Republicans started on the repeal-and-replace efforts of the Affordable Care Act.

“They don’t want to deal with consequences,” Russell said.

Russell said the planned gathering on Aug. 5 is expected to be attended by Madison County Regional Superintendent Bob Daiber, and state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, is expected to be at the Aug. 26 town hall. Both are running for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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