U.S. House candidate John Heenan held his first town hall meeting and said elected officials shouldn’t hide from the people back home. It’s a reference to those who have criticized the Republican members of Montana’s Congressional delegation for holding tele-town halls but not face-to-face.
About 2 dozen people gathered at the Billings Public Library over the noon hour to listen to a panel:
- Chuck Archambault, rancher and surveyor from Fort Belknap
- Ali Knapp, president of Wisetail LMS from Livingston
- Justin Schaaf, hunter and angler from Fort Peck
- Andrew McKean, journalist from Glasgow
- Erica Lighthiser, conservationist and mediator from Livingston
“The purpose of this meeting is to let us all speak to our public lands and participate and to conduct a town hall the way that we used to and should in the future,” said Heenan.
The attorney from Billings was the moderator who asked the panel questions, including about multiple use and wilderness study areas before opening it up to public comment.
The candidate did not speak about his position on this issue and instead listened and took notes. He hired someone to record and then transcribe the remarks. He said the testimony will be given to elected officials.
J.W. Westman of Park City thanked the panel for the discussion and Heenan for hosting the forum. He said it’s important to protect the process.
“And that process is public involvement through our voices and through our written comments,” he said. “We’ve seen so much top down from D.C. with the 2 wilderness study release bills.”
It’s a reference to the bills introduced by Montana Republicans – Senator Steve Daines and another by Congressman Greg Gianforte – to release several wilderness study areas across from Montana. Critics have said both did not seek public input and feedback rather that the two acted unilaterally.
At this town hall no one voiced partisan barbs, instead the conversation was civil even as different viewpoints were voiced.
“Our representatives shouldn’t hide from the people of Montana,” Heenan said afterwards. “We should be having forums like this so people can bring their viewpoints.”
He said collaboration can happen when people come together to listen.
“I think we saw here today people with good viewpoints - not all the same - from different parts of the state, but everyone feels better when you have a voice,” he said.
Heenan said this was his first town hall meeting and he looks forward to hosting others in the future.
Heenan is one of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination on the June primary election ballot. Also on the ballot, Grant Kier, John Meyer, Jared Pettinato, Kathleen Williams, and Lynda Moss. Moss recently ended her campaign, but because the ballots had already gone to press her name remains on the June 5, 2018 ballot. The winner will face GOP incumbent Greg Gianforte.