You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Town hall meeting draws more than 400 people in East Austin


Highlights

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams turned down invitations to attend meeting in his congressional district.

A panel of nonpartisan experts talked about several issues, including health care and the border wall.

An organizer for a town hall meeting Saturday in East Austin told a crowd of more than 400 people that U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a no-show at the event, won’t come to talk to his Austin constituents until they force him to do it.

“He doesn’t have to care what we say until we make him care,” said Lauren Russo. “We need to get out the vote in a way we haven’t done before.”

Williams, R-Austin, has not held a town hall in Austin this year. His district stretches from Austin to near Fort Worth.

A group of volunteers with Indivisible — a national network of activists dedicated to using tea party tactics to undermine President Donald Trump’s policies — put together the event at Huston-Tillotson University on Saturday. Indivisible has targeted Republican representatives, including U.S. Rep. John Carter of Round Rock, in the Austin area this year in a series of similar town hall meetings.

Organizers put a twist on Saturday’s event by hosting a panel of nonpartisan policy experts to answer questions on civil rights, immigration, education, gerrymandering, health care, criminal justice reform and other issues that affect those living in Texas Congressional District 25.

“A lot of Roger Williams’ responses about why he doesn’t do town halls is because they are just full of lunatic fringe people yelling,” Russo said. “Some of us here are not.”

For more than an hour, people in the audience stood quietly in line to pose questions to the panel. They first addressed their questions to Toni Hunter, an activist who organizers had stand in for Williams. She replied using information from his past public statements and his voting record.

A man named Omar — who declined to provide his last name — got loud applause from the audience when he said he was a practicing Muslim and wanted to know if Williams would come to an open house at the largest mosque in Austin.

Hunter — acting as Williams — turned down the invitation.

A member of the panel — University of Texas associate professor of public affairs Josh Busby — then said Williams had said on television he was in favor of the travel ban that Trump enacted against a number of Muslim countries.

Other members of the audience asked the panel questions about the proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act, including how people with pre-existing health conditions would be able to afford insurance. The panel also talked about the proposed border wall.

Zenen Jaimes Perez, who works for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said many landowners don’t know they have the right to oppose the amount of money the federal government may offer to condemn their land for the wall. He said there were cases in which federal offers went from $1,000 all the way to $56,000 an acre when people declined the government’s initial offer. Driving up the price of the land could raise questions about building the wall since the price of the construction would be increased, Jaimes Perez said.

Williams’ spokesman, Vince Zito, responded to a request for comment via Facebook about Saturday’s town hall meeting with a statement:

“Congressman Williams believes in listening to his district and in doing so spends as much time as possible meeting with constituents and groups throughout his district. Congressman Williams will always humbly listen to the thoughts and concerns of all of his constituents – he always has and always will.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Senate moves to bar guns from state psychiatric hospitals
Senate moves to bar guns from state psychiatric hospitals

The Texas Senate amended a bill Wednesday to allow the state psychiatric hospitals to ban guns on their premises, including the Austin State Hospital and nine other facilities. The amendment by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was added to House Bill 435, which seeks to allow volunteer emergency workers to carry licensed handguns while on the job. Changes...
Transgender bathroom issue continues to roil Legislature
Transgender bathroom issue continues to roil Legislature

Determining which bathrooms transgender Texans can legally use continues to roil the Legislature as the session enters its crucial final days. Already the subject of two all-night hearings, passionate protests and numerous news conferences, the transgender bathroom issue made a conspicuous appearance at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, emphatically capping a 13-hour...
House, Senate disagreement on ‘vouchers’ kills school funding bill
House, Senate disagreement on ‘vouchers’ kills school funding bill

The prospect of Texas public schools getting any additional money over the next two years is gone. The Texas House on Wednesday took yet another overwhelming vote against so-called school choice, which would redirect state money to help students pay for private school tuition. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the move killed...
Texas parks projects on hold after snub by Legislature
Texas parks projects on hold after snub by Legislature

New work to address overdue repairs at Texas state parks and efforts to open new parks to the public appear to be on hold after lawmakers at the Capitol have signaled unwillingness to give more money to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We knew this was going to be a very fiscally constrained session going into it,” agency Executive...
Lawsuit: Austin boy, 10, crushed by driveway security gate
Lawsuit: Austin boy, 10, crushed by driveway security gate

A 10-year-old boy was killed when a driveway security gate crushed his body at his friend’s home in Central Austin, according to a lawsuit that assigns blame to various parties, including the gate’s manufacturer and the homeowner. The boy was a guest at a house at 5500 Shoal Creek Blvd on Feb. 18 when he went into a gap between the gate...
More Stories