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EDITORIAL: In praise of lawmakers showing up

Decisions made in Cheyenne or Washington, D.C., can seem abstract. Until, that is, your health care coverage changes, your taxes go up or your child’s teacher loses her job.

Too often, our communication with lawmakers who make those decisions is limited. We can send emails, make phone calls, write letters; but when those messages go unanswered — or you receive a canned “thank you for your comments” response — it’s easy for constituents to become disillusioned.

It can start to feel like your concerns aren’t even heard by the people who are supposed to represent you.

Given the shaky transition in D.C. and the deep cuts in Cheyenne, many Wyomingites want to know our lawmakers not only hear us, but that they’re doing something.

That’s why we’re encouraged by a recent town hall meeting hosted by two local legislators. We appreciate Reps. Dan Laursen and David Northrup’s initiative and willingness to meet face-to-face with their constituents, even though they clearly didn’t agree on every issue.

The two Powell-area Republicans took questions on a wide range of topics, including K-12 funding, coal, alternative energy, taxes, a federal land transfer and economic development. Rep. Laursen’s stance on global warming and guns on campuses drew some heated comments from audience members at Saturday’s meeting.

It isn’t easy to stand in front of a crowded room and talk about divisive issues — and we’re thankful for those representatives who do — but that’s also part of the job. We wish more lawmakers would follow suit.

We’d like to see Sen. Ray Peterson, who represents Powell residents in the Legislature, host a town hall meeting here or make other efforts to reach out to his local constituents. Of course, we encourage other area lawmakers to do the same.

Wyoming is known as a small town with long roads, and we expect Sens. John Barrasso, Mike Enzi and Rep. Liz Cheney to travel down our roads and meet directly with the people who live here.

Progress, or at least greater understanding, occurs when people get together, discuss issues that matter and truly listen to one another.

Amid changes in Washington, some Republicans in other states have avoided in-person town hall meetings, “hoping to avoid the anti-President Trump protesters determined to make them the star of a viral YouTube video,” according to The Hill.

While Rep. Gus Bilirakis’s meetings with angry pro-Obamacare constituents did draw a lot of attention, the Florida Republican still plans to meet with people in his district.

“We have a duty and obligation to listen to our constituents. We let everyone speak, tell their story and ask questions,” Bilirakis told The Hill. “It is my duty as an elected representative to listen to them.”

Every elected official shares that duty. It’s their responsibility to show up, and not be content to govern from hundreds of miles away.

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