Mark Lopez is the warm-up act.
Pete Visclosky is the star.
For as many years as I can remember, the Northwest Indiana congressman has been listening to his constituents at community forums.
He’s been on his annual tour this month with stops as diverse as East Chicago and Crown Point.
I decided I was overdue in attending one of his forums, so I opted to sit in as he visited Lowell’s town hall.
As I said, Lopez, Visclosky’s chief of staff, got things rolling with a greeting and telling what to expect.
An eighth-grader from Lowell Middle School led a nearly capacity crowd in the pledge of allegiance.
And then Visclosky, or Pete as most of those attending called him, starts answering questions – written and verbal.
What about closing the post office in Shelby?
“Well, the post office (system) is bankrupt. Something has to give,” he concedes while understanding local concerns.
How about the Illiana Expressway? It is, after all, not a federal project, Visclosky notes. But “the benefit is to relieve traffic on the Borman and U.S. 30.”
The obvious national issues of the day get equal time. The escalating debt. The future of Social Security and Medicare.
The congressman takes his time, answering with facts and his view on each issue.
No issue gets a louder response than gun control. It is quickly obvious the crowd wants no part of further controls.
One man rises, saying, “I worry that honest, hardworking people who need guns to protect” won’t be able to have them.
As the crowd gathers steam expressing its opposition, another man speaks as he nears tears. “Children are the most important,” he says. Oddly, the man who says he has a granddaughter at the middle school argues guns are needed to protect children.
Visclosky does a professional politician’s job of recognizing the need to observe the Second Amendment right to bear arms while advocating doing what is prudent to protect the public from incidents like that in Newtown, Conn.
The bottom line for Visclosky’s forums is he’s listening. It’s part of the job he was elected to do.
Whether the folks at the Lowell forum will influence Visclosky’s actions in Washington is uncertain, but they can rest assured they had ample opportunity to voice their views.
As for the congressman, he sums it up this way: “This is a democratic process. I take these sessions seriously.”