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Town Hall For All Brings Out Utahns From Both Sides Of The Aisle

Julia Ritchey
"Missing" posters were hung around the Town Hall For All at Cottonwood High on Friday night after members of Utah's Congressional delegation declined to attend the public forum.

A community town hall intended for members of Utah’s Congressional delegation Friday night instead brought out several state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. 

About 30 organizations co-sponsored the "Town Hall For All" at Cottonwood High School in Murray, where hundreds of Utahns gathered to exchange ideas on a host of environmental, political and social concerns.

At one table, Emilie Turner, a volunteer with the group Utah Indivisible, helped constituents of the 4th Congressional District fill out question cards for Rep. Mia Love, whose cardboard cutout was positioned nearby for people to take pictures with.

Credit Julia Ritchey, KUER
Emilie Turner volunteers at a table for the 4th Congressional District, whose constituents were encouraged to write down questions for Rep. Mia Love. Love declined to attend the forum, but she, and other members of the delegation, appeared in the form of cardboard cutouts.

“So we’re trying to get constituents to write questions on these sticky notes, as well as sign a sheet of paper with their ZIP Code, that we will send to her office to show ‘Here are your constituent questions. ...You were not in attendance, and so we’re going to send to them to your office with proof that we are, in fact your constituents, not outside agitators as some have claimed,'” she said.

All six members of Utah’s Congressional delegation were represented in the forms of cardboard cutouts after each declined invitations to appear at the forum.  

Republican lawmakers have mostly shied away from town halls after videos of constituents jeering their representatives have gone viral in recent weeks, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s forum on February 9.

Rep. Becky Edwards, R-Davis, one of eight state lawmakers who spoke on a bipartisan panel Friday night, said she’s disappointed more members of Utah’s delegation didn’t make time to attend.  

“I think anytime that we can listen to our constituents, we learn a lot and we make better policy decisions,” she said. “So I think it’s their loss they’re not here.”

Edwards said in her nine years at the Legislature, she’s never seen such levels of political engagement and activism as she has this session.  

She and the other lawmakers said they hope by making themselves more accessible, they can find common ground.  

“Ideas on how we can work together better, that’s probably the thing I’m most looking forward to,” she said.  

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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