Congressman Goodlatte came to Edinburg in Shenandoah County on February 13. The Northern Virginia Daily reports:
[Goodlatte] invited area businesspeople, elected officials and other community leaders to a luncheon Monday to discuss, among other topics, President Donald Trump’s executive orders, the Affordable Care Act and Goodlatte’s role in what some perceived to be an attempt at weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Edinburg’s Carmella’s Restaurant was the location selected for the talk, which was on an invitation-only basis. Goodlatte said that talks of this nature have been common throughout his time in Congress.
“This is really an opportunity for local elected officials, community leaders, leaders of nonprofit organizations (and) business leaders to talk about issues,” Goodlatte said. “This is something I’ve been doing the entire time that I’ve been in Congress and I do it all across my district. … We do these on a regular basis and it’s an opportunity for folks to hear what’s going on in Washington, but also, importantly to me, to tell me the things about issues that are going on here that may be of importance to them.”
Goodlatte said he supported President Trump’s now-suspended travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries but he criticized its implementation. He again defended his failed effort to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics and affirmed his support for repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a “better plan,” although he apparently offered no details.
Goodlatte and his guests were not the only people present, as 25 protesters outside the restaurant expressed their concerns about the way they feel Goodlatte has been representing them. Chief among them was what they feel is inadequate accessibility to their elected official. Among the signs present, one read “Town Hall Now” and another, “Bob, we need to talk.”
One protester was Kay Ely-Pierce, with Shenandoah Indivisibles.
“He has not had a town hall meeting where he allows his constituents to actually dialogue with him since 2013,” she said. “It needs to be a meeting where all his constituents can be. That’s what a town hall is and that’s what we’re here for. We just want to talk to him. … That face-to-face dialogue is really the key to human understanding.”
The protesters stood just outside the restaurant as the congressman delivered his remarks inside. Goodlatte explained why the event was closed to the public and offered ways for those seeking to communicate with him on how to do so.
“We have a large list and we invite people from that list and we encourage people to sign up for the list, but that’s how that works,” he said. “I am very, very accessible to them (protesters). I stopped and said hello to them on my way in here, but we have a multitude of different ways to communicate with our constituents, including telephone town hall meetings, including open-door meetings where they can speak to my staff – and everything that my staff receives from any constituent comes to me – and we always respond to them, too. We’re interested in hearing their concerns as well.”
When asked about the demonstrators’ desire for an in-person town hall meeting, Goodlatte said that he and his office are “considering what all of our options are,” and again referred to the telephone town halls, which Ely-Pierce likened to a child being raised by its parents via Skype.
Goodlatte described the protest as part of a larger, wider-reaching demonstration.
“This is a nationwide thing,” he said. “This is not something that’s unique to the 6th District. This is going on in every single congressional district in the country. It’s organized by a national organization that is not happy with the outcome of the election. These are my constituents so they’re welcome to be here and express their opinions as well.”
Goodlatte should know that the protest in Edinburg, and other protests across the Sixth District, are not organized by a “national organization.” They are organized and attended by the constituents he is supposed to be representing in Congress. It’s good that he believes these constituents are welcome to express their opinions. It would be even better if he would take the time to meet with them face-to-face and listen to them.