Huizenga town hall: Health care, Afghanistan, racism

US Rep. Bill Huizenga
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, at a town hall meeting in Muskegon on Aug. 23, 2017.


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga met Wednesday with constituents who made it loud and clear they don’t agree with what’s going on in Washington.

An auditorium of roughly 250 people inside Orchard View High School in Muskegon questioned the Zeeland Republican about his stance on health care, recent racist symbols going up at Muskegon schools and President Donald Trump’s behavior.

The meeting came a few days after Huizenga showed support for Trump’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.

“Everybody agrees that Afghanistan is the cradle of that radical jihadist movement under the Taliban. So this is not nation building. It’s really about trying to give the Afghans space to make sure that they can run their own country. It can’t be us, it can’t be another Western power, but we can and should have the ability to assist them,” Huizenga said after the town hall.

In about an hour and a half, only a dozen questions were asked. Several long, loud boos and shouting matches prevented productive discussion throughout the evening.

“Ultimately, it’s about connecting in with constituents and I understand there’s people here who have come to every in-person town hall and all they want to do is shout and scream and yell. That’s their right. What I don’t accept, though, is if it makes it so disruptive that others can’t even participate. Hopefully they realize being disrespectful to their fellow citizens,” the congressman told 24 Hour News 8 afterward.

Several people wanted to know why Huizenga still supports Trump. One asked about the president’s “unhinged” behavior at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix Tuesday. The congressman said he didn’t watch it. Huizenga also said his decisions to speak for or against the president are based on policy, not the person.

People also questioned why Huizenga celebrated in the Rose Garden in May after the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act — though the effort later died in the Senate. Huizenga replied that the health care overhaul can’t be completed overnight.

“[That] bill is not doing that. The Obamacare is not doing that and Medicare for all or some other program, that’s not going do it, either,” Huizenga said.

The last focus of the night was on two recent incidents in Muskegon — in one case, a noose was found hanging at a school playground and in the other, a statue at the high school football stadium was tagged with racist slurs. Attendees wanted to know Huizenga’s stance on public racism in the community and his role to stop it. He explained it’s about working with leaders to call it out.

“You’ve got to name it and identify it and say that it’s not acceptable. One of our first calls [after the noose incident] was to local law enforcement here to find out what was happening,” he said.

Two productive items to come out of the town hall include a move by the congressman to meet with two constituents who spoke out about federal funding for special education and senior health care. 24 Hour News 8 plans to follow the progress of those plans.