Thomas D. Segel
America's Leaders or Congressional Cowards?
August 20, 2009
They came from across the Rio Grande Valley. Citizens of every stripe,
Democrats, Republicans, Independents and even non-voting youth from
three counties were there. They gathered at a Town Hall meeting in
Harlingen, Texas last night.
A meeting room in the city library was filled to capacity with a
standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 people. Speakers were also
placed in an outside patio area next to the meeting room, where another
hundred taxpayers assembled to hear information on healthcare reform and
other Administration proposals. Everyone showed up, except the two
individuals elected to represent those same voters in Washington D. C.
"Here in Texas”, said one man, "we appreciate people with backbone, but
that seems to be a missing body piece on the two members of Congress
representing the southern tip of the Lone Star State.”
Though Texas is a very conservative state, the strength of the Democrat
Party rests in the southern counties, all with majority Hispanic
The 15th Congressional District stretches from the Rio Grande
Valley to the Coastal Bend. Voters have sent Ruben Hinojosa to
Washington seven times since 1996, but he couldn’t be located to answer
four separate Town Hall invitations, sent over several weeks to his
office by constituents asking him to attend their scheduled gathering.
The Congressman, who is known for being a frequent flyer at taxpayer
expense, was off on another junket to China.
When told of this latest "fact finding tour”, one Town Hall participant
said we shouldn’t be too hard on Hinojosa. "After all” said the man from
McAllen, "he is our best representative – for Nancy Pelosi.”
Representing the 27th Congressional District of Texas is
Solomon P. Ortiz. Though his district covers an area from Corpus Christi
to the Rio Grande Valley, he is rarely seen in Brownsville or Harlingen
and only appears when he is handing out money from a pork laden piece of
legislation or running for reelection. Still, voters have sent him back
to Washington repeatedly since 1982.
Ortiz not only refused to attend the Town Hall meeting, but also had his
aide, Jose Borjon, insist to the media that only a member of Congress
had the right to schedule such an event. "We feel that town hall
meetings should be held by elected officials,” said Boejon.
Borjon said the Congressman also objected to his political challengers
being members of the Town Hall panel. "Why can’t the constituents just
talk to the people who are going to vote on health care reform. What is
the point of having others there? He later reversed himself saying, "We
want to make sure all parties are included”. But, the Congressman still
had no plans to attend the meeting.
Ortiz has also said that he might answer some questions via telephone,
but would not be yelled at by voters.
How did this "no show event” come to pass? First of all, it did not
happen for lack of trying. One man made repeated attempts to gain their
Art Cohan served more than 20 years in the Marine Corps before retiring
to help teach young men about leadership at the Marine Military Academy.
He is now fully retired and spends his days making sure his 13
grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren, along with everyone else he can
reach, understand the Constitution of the United States of America. He
feels it is his responsibility to educate everyone about the
Constitution and how our elected officials, almost from its inception,
have violated it.
On four separate occasions, Cohan and the other meeting organizers sent
letters to the two congressmen who represent Cameron County. Because
congressional mail takes at least two weeks to get into the hands of
representatives due to security concerns, each mailed invitation was
followed up with emails also requesting the elected officials to attend.
Congressman Ruben Hinojosa not only ignored the request from his
constituents, but also refused to acknowledge the invitation and turn it
down in writing or by telephone. He then had his aide call The Valley
Morning Star newspaper to tell the editor constituents should not
organize Town Hall Meetings and that representatives of other political
persuasions should not be present.
The reason Republican candidates Willie Valden and Eddie Zamora along
with Independent candidate Douglas Purl were invited was to make certain
some panelists would be present when the elected representatives refused
to acknowledge their invitations.
Says Cohan, "I do condemn the two representatives for hiding from
constituents. I attribute part of it to arrogance, and a lot of it to
fear. They simply do not want to face the music, and answer
constituent’s questions. Perhaps they cannot.”
the two-hour question and answer event everything was addressed from the
Second Amendment to excessive spending. The majority of the questions
and statements, however, were on the subject of healthcare reform.
Everyone in attendance remained very civil, but it was evident that the
audience was extremely angry when they faced the podium and two empty