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Tanner to return to Washington after busy recess

Tanner to return to Washington after busy recess

Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 11:12 am
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
The August congressional recess slipped into history at midnight Monday. Now it’s back to work for Congressman John Tanner and other members of Congress as they pack their bags and head back to Washington, D.C.
Was August a time of vacation for the Union City native son who has represented Tennessee’s Eighth Congressional District since 1988? Not a chance.
Tanner used his “vacation” time to connect with constituents in the 300 communities of the district that stretches from Memphis to Clarksville.
The congressman usually uses the month-long recess to visit with constituents, visit civic clubs and attend other community meetings. This year, he added a new twist — the tele-town hall meeting, so named because it is made possible via modern electronics. Hence, the prefix, “tele.”
Simply stated, it’s a phone network where the congressman is on one end and his call-in constituents are on the other. They call in, register their names and locations with a moderator and wait their time in line to speak directly to their congressional representative. Those who do not wish to speak may choose to listen to the proceedings, which sometimes last almost two hours.
According to Tanner’s legislative aide, Randy Ford, Tanner talked to or with about 12,500 constituents during the three tele-town hall meetings.
“This was in addition to meetings throughout the 19 counties in the Eighth District,” he said. “Participants asked questions and shared comments on health care reform, job creation, energy exploration, veterans’ benefits and other concerns.”
The first such meeting was on Aug. 17 when the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) hosted the electronic get-together to discuss health care. Ford estimated the call-in audience to have been about 6,300.
The second meeting was 2 p.m. Friday with about 3,000 participating. The third meeting was 4 p.m. Monday, with an audience of about 3,300.
“We appreciate the time people took to talk with us in this relatively new format so we could include as many people as possible from the more than 300 communities throughout this district,” Tanner said. “It was helpful for us to hear the questions and concerns of so many families in this district.”
Ford said Tanner has not only hosted the tele-town hall affairs, he has also visited the 19 counties in the district. The subject at hand? Health care — a top-ticket item of public business that Congress will address when it reconvenes after Labor Day.
He talked with health care providers, patients, families, senior citizens, civic leaders, veterans and small business owners “who have ideas on how to keep what works in the health care system and fix what is broken.”
Looking back
Tanner said earlier today August was a busy month for him and the tele-town hall approach to reaching out to constituents is one that proved worthy and one he’ll use again.
“There were a lot of people who said they appreciated the opportunity to talk to me,” he said. “Obviously, not everybody asked a question. One of the more constructive parts of the ‘meeting’ was that, for example, someone in Clarksville could listen to a question from somebody in Covington, or somebody in Jackson hearing what somebody in Memphis had to say.
“Everybody could hear. A lot of questions were the same questions that many had and, once the question was asked, they didn’t feel compelled to ask it again, but they continued to listen in.
“Another thing was, they had the ability to listen to me and listen to one another right from the comfort of their homes. They didn’t have to drive to a meeting at some courthouse. This was especially of benefit to senior citizens, particularly at night.
“This (arrangement) makes a meeting more exciting. They can put aside emotion and help figure out how we can reach a consensus on some sort of changes that are meaningful and yet do not adversely affect patient care.
“All in all, these type meetings really exceeded our hopes and expectations.”
Published in The Messenger 9.1.09

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