Campbell hears it all, from soup to nuts
Thursday’s town meeting with U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Carbondale could have borrowed its title from George Carlin’s latest comedy special, “Complaints and Grievances.”
But 68-year-old Campbell, R-Colo., said that’s why he holds the localized meetings.
The second-term senator wore a flannel shirt and jeans as he sat on top of a table in the Carbondale Town Board Chambers to give his spiel and answer questions.
Citizens from around the area were invited to join in an hour-long question-and-answer session with the senator, barraging him with questions ranging from foreign policy to agriculture reform.
Campbell began by updating the 30 or so people in attendance about goings-on in Washington, D.C., and the war on terrorism.
“We’ve got a huge change in Washington, D.C., as you can imagine,” he said. “Now our priorities are with defense and homeland security.”
Balancing spending on the war, which he said costs $1 billion per day, with other priorities, has been difficult.
“There is some disconnect with small towns,” he said of the war. “My own view is that we’re in some real deep problems that are going to affect all of us. There just doesn’t seem to be an end of it.”
He shared his opinion on the difficulty of keeping the nation secure while preserving civil liberties.
“In some places we’re probably going to be able to do that to some degree, but in some places it’s just not compatible,” he said.
He mentioned a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority meeting he attended just prior to the town meeting and noted a $9.5 billion cut from the federal transportation budget.
“If you deal with public office, you don’t deal with utopian circumstances – the mayor back there agrees with that,” he said, as Carbondale Mayor Randy Vanderhurst nodded in agreement.
Just about all of the citizens’ questions were national and international in scope.
On the subject of the war, Lou Mortensen of Glenwood Springs asked why there isn’t more emphasis on negotiation.
“Why haven’t we used the World Court, which was recently put online, to handle conflicts?” she asked, adding that she feels the United States should have negotiated with the Taliban.
She also expressed some fear and frustration that the United States is looking at toughening its nuclear policy.
“I think it would be a genocidal act,” she said.
“When you have a people who are driven by religious fundamentalism, there is no negotiation,” Campbell retorted. “I don’t know how to fix all that, but the bottom line is I don’t think we should be isolationists.”
When asked by Carbondale-area resident John Lawyer if he would sponsor a bill cutting aid to Israel, Campbell replied, “Not no, but hell no!”
“I think to abandon the only democratic country in the Middle East would be a mistake,” the senator said.
He added that while talking to President Hosni Mubarek of Egypt, the leader said the biggest threat to peace in the region is Saddam Hussein, not Israel.
Another citizen brought up U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service troubles and asked if anything could be done.
“It’s really been in the last few years when it’s really escalated,” Campbell said. “We gave amnesty to millions and millions of people and it created a backlog to this day.”
Campbell also said he’s against Bush’s plan to give amnesty to millions more and recalled a meeting he had with some Mexican people.
“Everyone there was looking for forms to get the rest of their families in,” he said. “I think we need to be careful of who we let in.”
He did, however, acknowledge that the labor provided by Latinos is valuable because nobody else wants to do the work they perform.
Another man suggested forming a Department of Logical Thinking,” because he said he’s seen too many senseless things come out of Washington.
In jest, Campbell told the man he would be appointed head of the department.
“We don’t have a perfect utopian society, but we’re working on it,” Campbell said.
“I think it was good,” Vanderhurst said after the town meeting. “It gave people a place to express their views.”
Mortensen said aside from the use of nuclear weapons, she is also concerned about nuclear waste being transported through Glenwood Canyon on rail and road.
“He told me he was opposed to that,” she said of Campbell.
“He voted against Yucca Mountain and he is opposed to the transport of any high- or low-level nuclear waste through Colorado,” she said.
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The Glenwood Springs City Council voted to extend the existing face covering mandate for indoor public-facing spaces within city limits during Thursday night’s meeting.