An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Town Hall, Sans McMorris Rodgers, Draws Big Crowd

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A crowd of about 800 people participated in a town hall meeting with Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) last night (Tuesday) in downtown Spokane. The representative wasn’t there; Congress is in session in the nation’s capital. But three of her staff members came to listen while an energized audience offered testimony on a variety of issues.

Many of the town hall meetings held around the country during the recent Congressional recess devolved into shouting matches. But Jim Dawson from the sponsoring group Fuse Washington wanted this event to be different.

“While Fuse is a progressive group, we welcome everyone to this town hall and encourage people from all political persuasions to speak and for all of us to be respectful to each other tonight,” Dawson said.

With that olive branch extended, Traci Couture reciprocated with a message from McMorris Rodgers that emphasized cooperation over conflict. Couture is the district director in the congresswoman’s Spokane office.

“At times like these, it’s important that we remember what unites us and what we have in common, rather than shining a spotlight on the things that we don’t," Couture said. "As the congresswoman recently said, America is strongest when we work together, despite our differences. Our shared values of liberty, justice and equality of opportunity are stronger than any campaign or controversy. We can’t and shouldn’t go at it alone.”

Good feelings aside, this crowd was ready to tee off on President Trump and the messages he has espoused during his first month in office. And people like Melanie Barnes wanted McMorris Rodgers to be their messenger. Barnes spoke of learning about trust and leadership during her 11 years of service in the military.

“Right now, we are struggling to maintain that trust with our government and what we need to repair it is honesty. Honesty about tax returns and honesty about international dealings," Barnes said.

"As such, I am respectfully but firmly asking Representative McMorris Rodgers to take my concerns upwards. And now I also ask you to stand if you, like me, want President Trump to release his tax returns, if you want an independent investigation into his dealings with Russia,” she said to applause.

Other people testified on issues such as the administration’s stance on immigration and refugees and on replacing the Affordable Care Act.