VALPARAISO — It was standing room only as more than 100 people crowded into a meeting room at the Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library for a forum hosted by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky Saturday afternoon.
After brief updates on recent tax legislation, the 2018 federal budget, the steel industry, and local Northwest Indiana initiatives, Visclosky addressed audience questions on “a fistful of cards” he clutched in his hands.
Visclosky read and saved a few cards until the end of the one-and-a-half hour gathering, including those questioning whether President Donald Trump should be censured for his alleged use of vulgar language in a recent White House immigration meeting and Trump's possible role in Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Visclosky said he is “disgusted by many of the pronouncements of the President of the United States” with regards to women and “people who don’t look exactly like him.”
“This has no place in what I believe is a good country — the United States,” Visclosky said.
He cautioned that impeachment is a “very serious issue” and should not be a “knee-jerk reaction,” but should be based on facts. He referenced four investigations taking place, including those of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I have faith that Mr. Mueller is going to seek the truth, so let us see what it is and have us make the decision,” Visclosky said.
Visclosky said there is “no doubt” that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election and that if individuals are found to have broken the law they should “go to jail.”
Several of his comments throughout the meeting elicited audience applause, including his belief in the science behind climate change and global warming and his support of public education and disappointment with charter schools that he said have demonstrated “no discernible difference” in the quality of education yet “have siphoned off a huge amount of resources.”
“If you have a public system that needs assistance, fix that public system,” said Visclosky. “We need to concentrate on having a good wholesome public education system.”
Throughout the meeting, Visclosky emphasized the importance of voting.
“Elections clearly matter,” said Visclosky. “Make sure you are properly registered and exercise that right to vote.”
Visclosky called for refraining from divisiveness but working for “a just and tolerant society.”
“There is a lot of sharp language today in the public debate,” said Visclosky. “We ought to respect each other and give dignity to every human being for their value. We ought not to lie and call people names ... it soils the public debate and gets nothing done.”
Healthcare, local mass transportation and presidential impeachment were on the minds of audience members at a town hall hosted by Visclosky at the Michigan City Town Hall on Saturday evening.
An intimate group of about 50 people gathered in the City Council’s meeting chambers as Visclosky first reviewed recent tax legislation, the 2018 federal budget, steel industry economics, and local Northwest Indiana initiatives before addressing specific audience questions.
In response to audience interest, Visclosky reviewed plans for South Shore Line expansion in west Lake County and Michigan City, which he called “a transformational opportunity for our economy and way of life.”
Visclosky said the proposed double track South Shore Line would reduce the 100-minute trip to Chicago from Michigan City to 67 minutes, and said he and his colleagues are “working as hard as possible” to get the program in the presidential fiscal year 2019 budget.
Asked about his plan for a healthcare system would be, Visclosky said that while he voted for the Affordable Care Act, he is frustrated that legislation never allowed the federal government to negotiate drug costs with pharmaceutical companies.
“That would be the first place I would start,” Visclosky said.
He said he also supports legislation for a single-payer health system.
“I think that’s where we are headed,” Visclosky said.
Presidential impeachment has become a “trivialized” subject, said Visclosky, instead of being treated as a “very serious” undertaking, said Visclosky.
“There has to be a strong factual basis that there was endangerment to the public or treason committed,” he said.
“Elections matter,” Visclosky said, expressing frustration of being “in the minority” in Congress.
“I don’t say that as an excuse. I get paid to work hard every day for all of us. But there are some things I cannot control,” Visclosky said. “Elections matter. Think about the next time you have a conversation and somebody tells you my vote doesn’t count. Don’t let anybody tell you this is a time not to be active.”
Above all, Visclosky said “finding fault” doesn’t solve the country’s problems.
“My dad was a Golden Glove boxing champ in the 30s, and he was a tough guy,” he said. “He always said it takes a tough guy to be a gentle man.
“We should be positive in our approach because we do want to make the world better."