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Town hall meeting brings elected officials under one roof

POSTED January 29, 2011 12:05 a.m.

Representatives from state and local government, the federal legislature and Turlock school boards alike will gather in Turlock’s War Memorial for a first-of-its-kind town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 24.

“We need to bring government back to the local level to hear the voice of the community,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who represents Turlock and organized the event. “I'm not aware of another event where an area's elected representatives from national, to state, to local have been in the same place at the same time. We need to bring government closer to home."

To achieve this goal, Chiesa has worked for months to schedule an event attended by most elected officials who directly represent Turlock including newly-elected Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Ca19), who will be a featured speaker at the event.

 “The Turlock Government Night will be a great opportunity for the elected leaders to hear the concerns and ideas of Stanislaus County residents," Denham said.  “I look forward to an open discussion about cutting federal spending, restoring fiscal responsibility and reducing our national debt.”

Denham will be joined by State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-12) and State Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-26) at the town hall. Each will offer a few minutes of prepared comments, and then answer questions from the audience.

Local government will be represented as well, with booths featuring Turlock City Council members and Mayor John Lazar, Turlock Irrigation District directors, and Turlock Unified School District trustees. Turlockers will have the chance to get up close and personal with the local officials, who will be prepared to answer questions one-on-one.

The presence of representatives from all levels of government will create a truly unique event, Berryhill said, where constituents’ queries can be easily directed to the right person.

 “It’s important for us to help our constituents understand which issues fall under local, state, and federal jurisdictions,” Berryhill said. “There are so many different local ordinances, regulations and state and federal laws, it’s enough to make your head spin, especially if you own a business. That’s why I’m so happy to have the level of cooperation that we do here in Stanislaus among our representatives, so we can work together to help simplify things for people. And events like this are a great way for us to hear from folks about the questions and concerns they have.”

Though the event is expected to draw a large crowd, seating will be limited due to the size of the venue, and is not guaranteed. Those who plan to attend are encouraged to RSVP by e-mailing chiesav@stancounty.com or by calling 525-6440.

But even those who can’t get in the door will be allowed to have their say. Questions for Denham, Berryhill, Cannella or Chiesa may be submitted in writing prior to Feb. 21 by mailing 1010 10th St., Suite 6500, Modesto, CA 95354, ATTN: Jennifer Carlson.

Chiesa hopes the event leads to better interaction between politicians and their constituents, opening the door to new, collective solutions to the myriad problems faced by cash-strapped governments around the country.

“All of us know we are in difficult times, and that we need to work together to find solutions. The first step in that is to establish a connection and trust with the people we represent,” Chiesa said. “It will be a good opportunity for the public to hear from all the levels of government at the same time, and for government officials to hear how their decisions and policies impact others.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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