Yoho covers several issues at Gainesville town hall meeting


Ted Yoho hosts a Gainesville Town Hall Thursday, April 4th at JJ Finley Elementary in Gainesville.

Ashley Crane/ Correspondent
Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 8:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 8:58 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho grasped a microphone as he stood beneath the yellow-fringed blue curtains of J.J. Finley Elementary’s auditorium in Gainesville Thursday evening, eschewing the on-stage podium in favor of the floor while fielding questions from his constituents.

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Ted Yoho hosts a Gainesville Town Hall Thursday, April 4th at JJ Finley Elementary in Gainesville.

Ashley Crane/ Correspondent

This was the Gainesville edition of a series of town halls that Yoho has held this week in his district, and it drew about 50 people interested in hearing from their representative on issues ranging from immigration reform to health care. Several asked their own questions, often prefacing them by thanking Yoho for taking the time to listen to their concerns.

Kali Blount, chairman of the Alachua County Housing Authority, said he and others from his organization chatted with Yoho recently and found his openness to discussion and his civility “refreshing.”

Blount asked Yoho about his views on health care and the private health insurance industry. The freshman congressman from Gainesville emphasized the importance of focusing on the prevention of health problems through nutritional and educational programs, which will lessen Americans’ need for high-cost health care services later in life.

Regarding private insurance, Yoho said he supports decreasing regulations and opening state borders when it comes to health insurance.

“I’m a capitalist,” he said. “I believe in free-market enterprise.”

One resident countered Yoho’s argument, telling him capitalism doesn’t work within the domain of health care. The House Republican agreed that the cost of medicine in the U.S. is higher than in several other countries but said the quality of American health care is better, particularly when you compare the wait times for receiving medical services.

Besides health care, immigration reform came up a few times during the town hall. Yoho laid out his suggestions for beginning to repair what he called a broken system: securing the nation’s borders and focusing first on immigrants working in agriculture before expanding reform to other industries.

He said he wants to first develop a successful guest worker program for immigrants interested in coming to the U.S. to work in agriculture. Then, the government can develop similar plans for other industries and grow from there.

“Let’s just keep it simple and expand from that,” he said of immigration reform.

Another resident who attended the town hall asked Yoho how he could help combat corruption at the federal level.

“My concern and question is the level of corruption in our federal government today is just so disgusting,” the citizen said.

Yoho pointed to the so-called TRUST Act — known by its longer moniker as the Trust Returned to the United States Taxpayer Act — that he filed as his first piece of legislation in Congress as one step to start dealing with corruption.

The bill, if passed, would require any congressional members who commit any felony while they’re in office to forfeit the taxpayer-funded part of their pensions.

“It’s a start,” he said. “Does it fix the whole thing? Absolutely not.”

Occasionally, Yoho would swap roles at the town hall and ask his constituents a question. They would raise their hands if they agreed.

“How many people want to keep the Department of Education?” he asked. A few hands rose.

Then, Yoho asked how many want to eliminate it. Many more put up their hands in favor.

Yoho said he agreed with the latter hand-raisers, questioning whether it makes sense to continue putting money into something — in this case, the U.S. Department of Education — that isn’t working.

He suggested eliminating the federal agency, which would cut government spending, and instead allowing state and county governments to manage education under federal or state guidelines.

“Problem-solving is going away,” Yoho said of students completing their education in America. “Our creativity quotient as a country is dropping, if you talk to the educators.”

Yoho was also questioned about his views on gun control. One person asked if he supports requiring universal background checks to obtain firearms. He said no.

Rather than focusing on background checks for gun purchases, which he said already exist, Yoho suggested centering government’s efforts on addressing the problem of mental health among Americans. People commit violence, not guns.

“What is the real issue? It’s the violence created by a weapon, and that could be a baseball bat,” he said.

After the town hall, Yoho spent time talking to and shaking hands with several people who’d attended as they trickled out of the auditorium. He said these forums give him good feedback from the people he represents on the issues that concern them.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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