'Listen Up' Session Featured Energized Citizens

Apr 15, 2018

The audience at Saturday's listening session in Rhinelander.
Credit Dean S. Acheson photo

From issues of Northwoods’ water quality, to healthcare, to gold and silver as acceptable payment for debt, two dozen people voiced concerns to their elected representatives Saturday in Rhinelander.

About 70 people ignored the threat of a major snowstorm to take part in the listening session sponsored by the Northwoods Friends for Civic Participation and the group Voters Engaged. Coordinator Jane Banning says she is gratified with the response to the listening session.

“It was way beyond my expectations. We had a lot of people show despite the threat of bad weather. We had 3 elected officials and 1 representative there.”

Listening to the hour-long parade of citizen speakers were state Sen. Tom Tiffany, Rep. Rob Swearingen and Rep. Mary Felzkowski. Sen. Ron Johnson sent a staff member.

Among the varied topics addressed, universal healthcare is a top concern of Susan Anderson of Rhinelander.

"What I would like is your support for, No. 1, universal health care for all, both in the country and in Wisconsin. No. 2, support for President Trump’s position that there should be lower drug prices. For (U.S. Health and Human Services) Secretary Azar’s view that drug companies should be able to purchase name brand drugs from drug companies in order to provide generic drugs of the same type. And, No. 3, your support for a bill that would repeal the Bush-era prohibition against Medicare negotiating drug prices with drug companies."

Better civil discourse from elected officials was mentioned more than once, including by Rhinelander High School teacher Will Losch..

“My concern is the erosion of confidence and trust in our civic institutions, our courts, our justice department, our public school systems and even our journalists. What I want is for our leaders to stop with tweeting, or making polarizing statements that are aimed at riling up a base, demonizing the other while passing on half truths, inaccuracies or lies. I want our leaders to hold their own party leadership accountable when this happens.”

Banning says the organizers achieved their goal with the session held at the Oneida County Senior Center saying the audience was civil and courteous and the elected officials were responsive and listened. To watch a video of the session, go to the Facebook of Northwoods Friends for Civic Participation.