EDITORIAL: Perry speaks, and listens
This probably wasn't what Scott Perry had in mind when he first ran for Congress in 2012.
The Dillsburg Republican served his first two terms with little controversy. There was no need to limit crowds at town hall meetings because there were always empty seats.
That time is over.
Perry's office had 500 tickets for Saturday's town-hall meeting in Red Lion, and they were gone within a day.
Perry had people checking identification at the door to make sure the people who were at the meeting were truly his constituents after other Republicans have complained that outsiders were coming to town hall meetings and drowning out the voices of those who belonged there.
When there were nearly 100 empty seats in the auditorium at Red Lion Junior High School, the crowd demanded to know why.
“If there are empty spaces, people chose not to come,” Perry said. “If you have questions about that, people chose not to come.”
The crowd was contentious, responding with anger and frustration at some answers to questions written down by those attending and read by a moderator. Many held signs against Perry's positions and berating him for being "in lockstep" with President Donald Trump. At times, voices of dissent drowned out Perry's answers to questions.
A good meeting? A bad meeting? Or just a 2017 meeting?
In our editorial "Why no face to face?" we asked why Sen. Pat Toomey and other representatives, such as Perry, seemingly refuse to meet their constituents outside of social media. We are happy to see Perry had the guts to face his constituents in person, which he hadn't done since last summer. Many in Congress are simply refusing to hold public meetings in their districts, knowing there will be many in the crowd who are angry about the Republican health care bill, angry about travel bans and civil rights, angry about — well, nearly everything the new administration has done and has planned.
For 90 minutes, Perry stood before his voters and explained his positions — he's down as a "no" vote on the health care changes, he's not willing to believe the Trump White House has ties to Russia. He admitted when he didn't know enough about the American Health Care Act, school choice legislation or immigration raids to answered some questions posed.
He told the crowd to vent their frustrations at him, not at each other.
"I think we can be civil, we can be passionate with one another about the things we believe in without being disrespectful," he said.
Most of his answers drew both supportive applause and rumblings of anger.
Yes, there were several people from activist groups in attendance, and they made their views known to the congressman, both with signs and with their voices. And there were many there who agreed with him, applauded every statement.
That's the way it's supposed to be.
Perry pointed out that there are 720,000 people in his congressional district, and no one will like everything he says and does, and many people won't like anything he says or does.
But for 90 minutes on Saturday morning, 400 or so people of the Pennsylvania 4th District got a chance to hear their congressman respond to their questions, admit he doesn't know everything and explain his votes and actions.
And that's a good start toward making sure every voice in the district is heard.