A passionate group of more than 60 people came to U.S Rep. Bob Dold’s (R-IL) town hall meetingat on Saturday to hear what their congressman had to say about his first six weeks in Washington.
The citizens wanted to hear Dold’s ideas and express their own. Some of the participants argued with each other while the first-term congressman acted as the peacemaker. Most had the economy and budget as their top priorities, and there were a myriad of suggestions to improve the situation.
Dold was poised to discuss the issue after voting to cut $60 billion from the current federal budget just seven and a half hours before the meeting began. He cast his vote about 3:30 a.m. (CST) on the floor of the House.
“We had to go back to the office [after the vote] to take care of some loose ends and then get on the plane,” Dold said. When one member of the crowd mentioned this effort, Dold received a round of applause from nearly everyone.
Dold began the meeting asking for a show of hands on who thought they were living better than their parents. Most raised their hands. He next asked if people thought their children would continue this pattern. Far fewer hands went up.
“I believe American’s best days are ahead," Dold said. "I believe we can compete with anyone if we have a level playing field."
He then took out his wallet, where he keeps pictures of his young children. He explained one of the reasons he went to Congress was to leave the country a better place for them.
After the informal poll, Dold continued the meeting with a slide show to illustrate the federal budget and deficit. His presentation showed areas of spending as well as the revenue stream from taxes.
Northbrook resident Howard Brandeisky said the projected deficit reduction after 2012 shown on one of the slides was a result of the expiration of tax cuts passed in 2001 at the request of then President George W. Bush. Brandeisky suggested using the expiration of that legislation to help cut the deficit.
“Would you be willing to let the Bush tax cuts expire if Democrats agreed to deep spending cuts?” Brandeisky asked.
Dold indicated a desire to work with Democrats to reduce the budget deficit but stopped short of agreeing to end the Bush era tax cuts for the right amount of spending reduction.
“I’m open, yes, to working with the Democrats," Dold said. “I want to know what the final bill looks like. Raising taxes is not my style.”
The last comment evoked applause from a portion of the audience.
When pressed, Dold said he would not absolutely rule anything out. Anything that would cause people to pay more taxes is against his philosophical bent, he added.
“I’m not for a tax increase,” the congressman said. “We’ll see how [the tax increase passed last month by the Illinois General Assembly] plays out in Illinois.”
Dold explained economic growth and job creation were his preferred ways to bring the U.S. out of its current economic and unemployment predicament.
“I prefer to create and grow,” Dold said. “If we create jobs, more people will be working and paying taxes.” He indicated that would make a dent in the deficit.
Some in the crowd expressed anger over the still gripping the country and wanted to rein in the mortgage lenders who made high-risk loans they believed led to the high rate of homeowners losing their properties.
“How do we cull the bankers’ greed?” asked Glenview resident Steve Kay. “We need regulations to keep them from doing this again.”
Dold replied that he wants to see reasonable regulation and eliminate unnecessary requirements. He did not specifically address curbs on banks.
Dold then touted a bill he cosponsored to repeal a requirement forcing any company to file a report to the government if it does $600 of business with a person or organization. He sees this as an unnecessary regulation. That legislation has passed the House and Senate and awaits the President Barack Obama’s signature.
Some who came to the meeting, including former Glenview Village President Nancy Firfer and current were there to learn more about what their congressman was doing.
“I want to know what’s going on in Washington,” said Firfer. “I’m here for an update.”
After the meeting, Dold was pleased with the spirited group and said he looked forward to more town hall meetings.
“I represent everyone in the district whether we agree or not,” said Dold, who explained Democrats and Republicans agree 40 percent of the time and disagree the rest.
“We have to reach across the aisle to find some common ground,” he said. “Let’s take some of the 40 percent we agree on and pass some legislation.”