Scores of area residents packed the seats of Denton Bible Church on Thursday night as U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess conducted his latest town hall meeting.
Burgess, R-Lewisville, made a few remarks before giving the floor to the people to voice their concerns, questions, issues and messages they want him to take back to Washington.
“What I have heard overwhelmingly [is] this country is crying out for leadership; they are desperate for someone to stand up,” Burgess said after the two-hour meeting. “It needs to change in a big way and people are tired and frustrated waiting for the change to occur.”
The diverse group of people who spoke asked about or commented on a number of topics, including veterans’ benefits, the Affordable Care Act, National Security Agency issues, food stamp program cuts, impeachment and the minimum wage.
A Frisco resident, Rodney Brown, was concerned about the minimum wage issue relating to the hardships his son faces.
“It’s devastating for him to try to live on minimum wage as an adult. What is a kid supposed to do when he can’t pay for a car, buy groceries? There has to be a happy medium,” Brown said.
Burgess said he shared the man’s concerns on the issue, but related the potential problems with imposing a wage increase given the economic and job issues the country faces.
“An entry-level wage — when it increases dramatically — simply means employers hire fewer entry-level employees,” Burgess said.
Other speakers lauded Burgess for continuing his stance on the Affordable Care Act and urged him to continue his position if not take stronger steps to get the act delayed or to defund it entirely.
Things got testy later in the evening when Daniel Moran, a self-described atheist, asked Burgess about his vote against letting atheist and humanist chaplains serve in the armed forces.
“I think it’s a dumb idea, and I would do it again,” Burgess said. “If you are going to have a chaplain, that starts at the top and a belief in God.”
Moran attempted to continue making his point as the volume of the heckling from the crowd grew louder. He eventually left the line, shaking Burgess’ hand before he returned to his seat.
“Not everyone’s going to agree — I accept that,” Burgess said later. “People that come that want to voice an opinion different from mine, that is part of the participatory nature of democracy.”
Immigration issues brought Marco Malagon and some of his friends and family to speak.
“We wanted to come to this meeting to deliver a message especially for Congressman Burgess: We are concerned our voices from the Latino community … we’re getting pushed out of the Republican Party because of their hard-core stance on anti-immigration legislation,” Malagon said. “You saw it here; they don’t want to support us.”
He said the party was openly ignoring a section of the population that can vote.
“We line up with a lot of conservative issues. It’s not a secret [that] Latino families are really conservative,” Malagon said. “We get pushed out to the other party and then we get portrayed as a bunch of Democrats, and that’s not the case.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.