ST. GEORGE — Hundreds of local citizens gathered at Dixie High School in St. George, Wednesday evening for a town hall meeting with Rep. Chris Stewart, a meeting that proved boisterous and engaged the mayor in public address as well.
One of several meetings the congressman is holding across the district this month, addressing health care, defense, the environment, immigration and the debt ceiling in an open forum, the hottest issue raised at the St. George Town Hall came from a vocal group of residents tackling the issue of a rehab facility being allowed in their neighborhood.
Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, is chairman of the subcommittee on the environment, and is a New York Times best-selling and national award-winning author, world record-setting Air Force pilot, and the former owner and CEO of a small business.
A crowd of Bloomington residents showed up at the town hall meeting determined to voice their concerns over the pending establishment of a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility proposed to be established in their neighborhood. The residents are concerned the facility will lower property values and increase crime in their neighborhood.
Taking advantage of the question and answer format of the town hall meeting, residents raised their questions to the congressman.
But because it was a local issue involving zoning, Stewart said there wasn’t much he could do to help them.
Members of the audience began shouting for St. George Mayor Dan McArthur to stand up and address the crowd. McArthur then briefly took the microphone and said by way of explanation to the crowd that, while he agreed with their concerns, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the establishment of these sorts of facilities, and that the city could be sued if they take measures to block zoning permits and business licenses for the proposed facility. The mayor’s comments did not sit well with some of the audience members who began to call one another out by name for a heated debate.
Stewart was asked his opinion of the residential treatment center and he said he wouldn’t want such a facility in his neighborhood, but it is a local issue between the city and the state.
(report continues below)
Videocast by Michael Flynn, St. George News
President Obama and both parties in Congress have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a combination of spending cuts and increased tax rates; however, Stewart said that both have failed to come to agreement regarding where certain budget cuts should come from. Due to that, the sequester took effect March 2013.
“We’re not even close,” Stewart said about the U.S. debt ceiling and a compromise in response to a question a crowd member posed regarding the deficit. Stewart also expressed displeasure with the sequester, which makes harmful and automatic budget cuts to such things as after-school programs for children, eliminates meals for sick and homebound seniors, and eliminates jobs for teachers and first responders.
The conservative budget regarding health care protects and preserves Social Security and Medicare, Stewart said, and said “Obamacare is the worst legislation written in the history of the universe.”
Great applause erupted as Stewart continued to call for passing a resolution that de-funds Obamacare, sympathizing with the small business owner who cannot provide health care for employees.
Regarding the issues in Egypt, Syria and other parts of the Middle East that a military man questioned the congressman about, Stewart said the world is begging for American leadership.
“We are the last best hope of man,” Stewart said, quoting Lincoln.
Responding to the debate regarding global climate change and the industries affected by the new regulations stamped onto transportation, Stewart said the Environmental Protection Agency has been arrogant with proposed regulations, regulations, he said, which are impossible for western states to comply with.
Stewart opposes comprehensive legislation on immigration, he said, but it is a complex issue in which he said he does not see a solution for outside of creating a path to citizenship. This was not a popular stance with the crowd who showed audible disapproval.
Stewart opposes giving $20 billion to border security because, he said, 40 percent of illegal immigrants didn’t cross the border illegally, but overstayed their visas.
“I don’t think we’re going to round up 11 million people and deport them,” Stewart said. “We don’t want to create a security administration to stop people and go into businesses and our homes and deport.”
Responding to a question from the crowd regarding impeachment of President Obama, which drew applause, Stewart said it has never seriously been considered by the Senate or Congress.
Obama has pushed the boundaries of the Constitution, Stewart said, but impeachment is not a healthy option between Republicans and Democrats to remedy disagreement. But, “we should find ways to oppose him in any way that we can,” Stewart said.
“Wow, I’m so glad I’m not the Mayor,” Stewart said of the local heated debate which continued into the hallways after the meeting, before Stewart wrapped for the evening.
St. George News Reporter Michael Flynn contributed to the portion of this report pertaining to the Bloomington residents concerns.
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