Inslee's health care town hall scheduled

POULSBO — U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee will be holding a town hall meeting Aug. 29 at North Kitsap High School to discuss the prospect of overhauling the country's health care system.

But don't expect the kind of fireworks seen in other parts of the country.

The meeting will be held Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at in the school's gymnasium, said Sharmila Swenson on Friday, spokeswoman for the Bainbridge Island Democrat.

Similar town hall meetings have been the scenes of protest and turbulence this summer as some conservatives opposed to the federal government's further involvement in health care have turned usually tame district meetings into raucous affairs.

But local Republican officials and critics of President Barack Obama's health plan said they don't plan to disrupt the meeting, however, they do have questions they'd like answered.

Inslee's office is anticipating high passions, Swenson said, but she also noted Inslee is used to taking controversial stances, as he opposed using military force in Iraq.

"The congresman doens't have any problem with it," said Swenson of an engaged town hall audience, as long as it is civil.

"It's part of his job, he can take it," she said.

There have been reports of death threats to Obama and his family at town hall meetings, along with reports of violence.

Swenson said Inslee's staff will contact Kitsap law enforcement agencies prior to the meeting to ensure appropriate security measures are taken, but noted Friday those steps have not been taken.

"We're still pulling everything together," Swenson said.

Swenson said Inslee is anticipating hearing from those who oppose the health care proposals.

"We certainly expect folks to come out and voice their concerns about it," Swenson said. "Unfortunately they haven't given us their play book."

Sandy LaCelle, chairwoman of the Kitsap Republican Party, said she has heard considerable interest among members about attending such a meeting, but said any disruption would do more harm than good.

"Having people disrupt it for no other reason than that, it really wastes everybody's time," LaCelle said.

James Olsen, a conservative Bainbridge activist, said he would attend the meeting, and suspects Inlsee may be reacting to pressure to a hold a live meeting in Kitsap.

"How much longer could Inslee have ducked it? He was getting humiliated in letters to the editor and comments on blogs," Olsen said.

Joan Gorner, a retired teacher from Poulsbo, has been a part of the chorus calling for Inslee to appear in his district and take questions in person from constituents.

She said she believes the current system could likely use some reforms, but she believes the proposal under consideration by Congress is a surreptious effort to turn the country toward socialism. As such, she is "vehemently opposed" to Obama's proposal.

She points to the stimulus package, bank bailouts, the "cash for clunkers" program as examples. She understands the frustration being vented at these forums across the country, but said she would not support any impolite or disruptive behavior at Inslee's meeting.

"It's not going to be me and it's not going to be anyone I know," she said.

Swenson said the choice of date and time was to allow people who work during the week and have families to attend. Inslee held two teleconferences with constituents recently, July 29 and Aug. 5, which saw about 11,000 people log in, she said.

-This report compiled by North Kitsap Herald reporters Tad Sooter and Andrew Binion

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