Some complain they didn’t know about congressman’s town hall

April 21, 2010
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Congressman Danny K. Davis says he’ll hold his next town hall meeting in Austin. Earlier this month, some of the roughly 100 people who attended the 7th District congressman’s meeting in Oak Park said they didn’t get enough notice of the event, and others voiced concern that Austin residents weren’t notified about the meeting.

Raymond Gye, constituent service representative for the 7th District, said a meeting was already held for the Austin community. Though he could not remember exactly when, he said it occurred toward the end of last year.

“We previously had a town hall meeting for that area,” he said. “They were more than welcome to attend this meeting or any that we have.”

He said that although the congressional office didn’t send notices about the April 6 Oak Park town hall meeting to Austin residents, they will receive information in the mail regarding an upcoming meeting in Austin.

Shortly after the meeting began, one resident voiced her concern about the town hall not being widely publicized. She said that even though she is an Oak Park resident, she learned of the meeting from a friend. She added that because she, like many other middle-class families in Oak Park and the surrounding areas live in apartment buildings that don’t get these notices, they are excluded from events like this one.

David Powers, communications director for the village of Oak Park, said it’s up to the congressman’s office to inform residents of the meeting. However, Powers said he advertised the meeting on Oak Park’s Facebook and Twitter pages and sent e-mails to those on his contact list. He also noted that the meeting was included on the village’s breaking news page.

“I’m almost positive that they (congressman Davis’ office) would have sent out a news release to the Oak Park Leaves or the Wednesday Journal,” he said.

Austin resident Doristeen Walker, who was also invited by a friend who lives in Oak Park, agrees that not many people outside of Oak Park knew about the meeting.

“I live right across from Oak Park, and I didn’t know about it,” she said. “I don’t know if it was a lack of communication, or they just didn’t get the materials out.”

Walker, whose main concern is the recent shut down of some Chicago Public Schools, says she wants those closures to stop.

“I would like to see more funds appropriated so that these schools would not be closed,” she said. “I would like to see after-school programs to keep these children off the corners, some type of alternative educational programs, and I could go on and on and on.”

Several residents came out to learn as much as they could about the new health care law Congress approved. That was the case for Austin resident Saria Lofton, who hopes for an easy transition between the current system and what Congress approved earlier this year.

Her biggest concern, however, is Austin’s food desert, which she said is a factor in the increasing rate of obesity among African Americans.

“The food desert is a big issue,” she said. “There’s not even a Dominick’s.”

Davis’ constituents also voiced their frustrations about long-term unemployment and lack of jobs as well as immigration reform. They also talked to the congressman about international trade, arts programs, small businesses and the legalization of marijuana, among other topics.

As far as including Austin residents in future town halls, Davis, an Austin resident himself, said a meeting in the neighborhood would be scheduled soon.

“I use to be the alderman in the Austin community, so Austin is home,” he said.

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