Okay, so I have to start this story from the beginning, so bear with me.
Several weeks ago, we learned that District 9 Rep. Adam Smith was holding a town hall meeting Aug. 25 in Lakewood. I volunteered to go and gather some first-hand experience to share with you, our members, since Smith is my representative. I called up Smith’s office to RSVP for the meeting, which was to be held at Lakewood City Hall. I made a reservation for one, marked my calendar and promptly moved on to the next thing on my to do list.
A couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from Smith’s office to let me know that the venue had been changed, to accommodate a larger crowd, to the Milgard Family Hope Center in Lakewood. They also wanted to confirm my reservation for three. Apparently my party had grown along with the venue. I graciously corrected the error and went back to my to do list.
Given the fact that the crowd had grown so much, I decided to give myself plenty of time and left Olympia at 6 p.m., a full hour before the meeting was scheduled to begin. Good thing, too.
When I arrived at Milgard Family Hope Center, I was greeted at my car by a young man in a suit who gave me a sheet of hand-scribbled directions and told me the event had been moved to Clover Park High School “to accommodate a larger crowd.” I still had 35 minutes to spare, so I was a little surprised to find the parking lot at the high school overflowing and swarms of people headed toward the football stadium. I managed to find parking in the back forty and hoofed it to the gates of the stadium where I dodged signs and people talking up their causes. One man invited me to a tea party for fiscal responsibility. He has clearly never seen my shoe collection.
Once inside the stadium, I was shocked by the number of people who had turned out to make their feelings known. I had to walk to the far end of the stands to find an empty seat. Boos and cheers accompanied the arrival of each new sign that appeared. At one point a chant of “health care now!” broke out, with a counterpoint “no!” thrown in for good measure.
Smith started the meeting a few minutes early with remarks about what he had been working on and explained a little of the health care debate before opening up the floor to questions from the estimated 2,000 attendees. Several health care professionals commented that an emphasis on preventative and primary care were necessary to reduce costs, to which Smith agreed. Questions varied from when will you step out of office so someone else can have a turn (to which he answered the voters decide every couple of years if that is going to happen) to whether a person would be able to keep a health savings plan under the proposed House Bill (the answer was no, accompanied by a complicated explanation as to why). When asked if he would support the bill, as it is today, if a vote was forced, he answered no, which was met with a healthy round of applause.
Only one mild tussle broke out over a sign which I was too far away from to see. I was proud of my fellow District 9 members for maintaining decorum during moments of heated discussion on a serious topic and my representative for his candor on a complex and somewhat polarizing topic. It will be interesting to see what happens next in the health care reform arena.