Well, last night was a first for me.
After being allowed to leave work a little early, I decided to meet some fellow Indivisible Group members at a town hall meeting in the city of Coppell, a suburb of Dallas, to hear and talk with some local representatives. The scheduled guests were State Representatives Matt Rinaldi and Ron Simmons, and State Senator Don Huffines. As it turned out, Huffines had a previous commitment and was unable to show.
The reason I wanted to attend was to voice my concern for SB6 (nicknamed the Texas Bathroom Bill). I did this as a citizen of Dallas, Texas who loves his state and not as a paid protester, as some might falsely claim. Before I had a chance to ask my question and give the representatives my views of the bill, several other people had already gone and made solid arguments. My opinion is based on what we have seen happen in North Carolina, that it could easily cost the state hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars annually.
When I had my chance to speak, it became clear that Rinaldi did not share my concerns.
In his introduction speech, Rinaldi said he was there to listen to the questions AND concerns of the citizens but instead, brushed them off as nonsense from the get-go if he disagreed with his constituents. One lady whom I had never met was almost brought to tears at one point when talking passionately about how the School Choice bill would affect her children and family.
The representatives seemed to forget that the meeting (which was held in a public space at Coppell City Hall) was open to the public and that there were no time limits or guidelines given for how the open-mic, question-and-answer portion of the evening would be handled. I watched as one-by-one citizens were cut off early or asked to hurry up or to please sit down when it was clear that the representatives there had no good answer for the people who wanted to voice their concerns for their state.
When I got up, I made sure to mention facts. I pulled stats from a 25-page study by the Texas Association of Business (PDF), including that it could easily cost the state 185,000 jobs and cost the state $8.5 billion annually. Rinaldi responded by starting off, “Well, if you actually read the bill…” As far as I am aware, we were both adults trying to have a productive back-and-forth, but his dismissive response made it clear that he didn’t regard me as an adult at all. Which is concerning to say the least.
During my short time at the mic, I also relayed how this will affect a very close friend of mine, something that was met with very mixed reactions from the crowd and most likely gave me the label of “snowflake.” I guess when life hands you snowflakes, make some snowballs.
Before I was able to finish my full statement and respond to Rinaldi’s mischaracterization of the study and the facts supporting it, the mic was aggressively removed from my hand by one of the event organizers.
I find it highly unfortunate that elected officials are so quick to disregard the concerns of the citizens once they find out that those citizens don’t agree with them.
A friend of mine often says:
“Be kind. Be brave.”
I would add: