Wednesday , April 19, 2017 - 6:33 PM5 comments
WASHINGTON TERRACE — Pam Harrison said she and others seeking a face-to-face encounter with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop have pushed hard for a meeting.
So far, nothing’s worked.
“We’ve tried polite. Polite isn’t working,” she said. Meantime, she maintains, many “have a lot of angst. Emotions are real.”
So Tuesday night, Harrison, who helps lead Indivisible Ogden, and around 150 others gathered to air their concerns. Those on hand voiced opposition to putting the Bears Ears National Monument in state hands, expressed support for immigration reform and touched on many other subjects.
More significantly, they used the gathering, held at the Pleasant Valley Branch library, to bash what they say is Bishop’s unresponsiveness, a common refrain from Indivisible Ogden, and to press him to hold a town hall meeting. Group members — many who self-identified as Democrats when asked — had invited Bishop, but he didn’t show, and in his absence they placed a cardboard cutout of the Brigham City Republican at the front of the meeting space.
“I’ve reached out to Mr. Bishop,” said Chris Jensen, one of many who spoke out at the meeting. “He’s never returned my calls. He’s never returned my emails.”
Tuesday’s gathering was the latest of many in recent months, here in Utah and elsewhere, attended by disaffected voters with tough words for incumbent GOP lawmakers. But a state Republican leader counterpunched, saying the harsh tone of some of the recent meetings — including noisy town hall gatherings held by U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, both of Utah — don’t bode for productive political discourse.
“Nothing was accomplished because it was a shout down,” James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said Wednesday, referencing the Chaffetz and Stewart meetings. “It was essentially an anti-Republican rally. All you heard was shouting and disruption.”
Bishop spokesman Lee Lonsberry dismissed contentions that the congressman is out of touch. The lawmaker, who will seek his ninth term in 2018, creamed his Democratic opponent in 2016 elections by about 40 percentage points, a 66-26 margin.
“Our office is constantly in contact with constituents via phone calls, emails, letters and in-person meetings,” Lonsberry said in an email Wednesday. “Town halls are but one way to communicate and will be scheduled, as they always have been, when time allows.”
Bishop, he went on, has hosted “hundreds” of town hall gatherings “and will continue to do so in the future.”
Bigfoot, but not Bishop
The group here has pushed Bishop to hold a town hall gathering and paid for a billboard in Ogden with a message underscoring what members view as his aloofness. It features a pair of milk cartons with Bishop’s likeness and reads, “Have you seen this congressman?”
They aired some of the same criticism at Tuesday’s meeting, aside from voicing support for reduced use of fossil fuels, warning about continued efforts to repeal Obamacare and touching on other issues.
Group efforts to draw out the GOP lawmaker “haven’t yet been successful in producing any sightings of Rob Bishop,” Harrison told Tuesday’s crowd. “Have any of you seen him?”
“I’ve seen Bigfoot once,” joked John Kluthe, who helped moderate the meeting.
Jim Hutchins, a Weber State University professor who helped spearhead the anti-Bishop billboard, alluded to the cardboard cutout of the lawmaker in voicing his criticism. “People are angry at being ignored by cardboard Rob, just like we’re being ignored by real Rob,” he said.
Kay Hoogland, an Indivisible Ogden volunteer, said lawmakers are beholden to meet with their constituents. Organizers taped Tuesday’s meeting and plan to forward copies to Bishop’s office.
“Regardless of how those town halls are conducted, the fundamental truth is that is part of the job of being a representative,” Hoogland said.
But Evans, the state GOP leader, said groups like Indivisible Ogden sometimes seem more bent on demanding acquiescence to their position, even if it’s a minority view, not just being heard. Politicos are usually aware of the varied positions on a given issue and govern, in part, on the mandate from the majority of voters who put them in office.
“You’re not going to bully those members of Congress into changing the way they’re going to govern,” Evans said.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.