District 11 has first Congressional Town Hall in 5 years Residents who are opponents and supporters

| 31 Jan 2019 | 10:23

By Meghan Byers
Parspippany — Newly elected Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ11) held her first town hall meeting on Jan. 27, 2019, at the Parsippany Police Athletic League Youth Center, marking the first time in more than five years that New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District has had an official in-person town hall.
The 11th District includes parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties. In Sussex County, the municipalities of Sparta, Byram, Hopatcong, Ogdensburg, and Stanhope are in the 11th District.
More than 400 people gathered at the Parsippany PAL to engage in a dialogue with their congresswoman. Several were turned away at the door because the room had reached capacity.
One such constituent, Michael Eitel from Lake Hiawatha, said he had been looking forward to hearing the congresswoman speak. A formerly registered Republican, Eitel explained that he had cast his vote for Sherrill, a Democrat, in part because he was “disappointed with the direction” of the Republican party.
“I vote for the person I think can do the best job,” he said. “I think [Sherrill] is incredible, and I think she’s going to do a really good job.”
Hands went up all over the room throughout the meeting, with constituents of all ages from towns across the district voicing concern about issues ranging from foreign policy to local challenges. For about two hours, Sherrill discussed topics including criminal justice reform, the government shutdown, gun control, tax reform, veterans’ affairs, U.S. policy toward Venezuela, local resources and housing for those with disabilities, immigration reform, border security, and infrastructure projects such as the Gateway tunnel.
A particularly loud burst of applause followed when one questioner asked Sherrill if she would support a “Medicare For All” bill. However, Sherrill was more measured in her response, noting the complexity of the issue and stating that she supported a request for the Congressional Budget Office to score the bill.
“There will be winners and losers in that system,” she said. “Of course, my concern is, are New Jersey taxpayers going to be the losers in that system?”
Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, also responded to a questioner who asked if she would commit to reducing spending on “wasteful military programs.”
“I am not committed to cutting our military expenditures,” Sherrill said, explaining that there are areas she feels are underfunded, including satellite technology and cybersecurity.
“What I am committed to doing,” Sherrill said, “is reducing the amount of waste in our military spending.”
A student from Whippany Park High School who had volunteered during the campaign for Sherrill’s opponent, Assemblyman Jay Webber, first praised Sherrill’s professionalism, before asking her thoughts on how to solve the issue of divisiveness in politics.
“I think New Jersey can and is leading the way in this,” replied Sherrill. She added that she had started reaching across the aisle herself by talking to fellow veterans who are Republicans.
“I’ve learned that I have differences with a lot of people,” she said, “but there are a lot of issues that we have agreement on.”
As the town hall meeting concluded, Sherrill promised the crowd that it would be the first town hall of many.
“A key part of our democracy is having a marketplace of ideas, open forums where people with diverse viewpoints can be heard and treated with respect,” the congresswoman wrote in a Twitter post the day after the meeting: “I’m so proud to serve a district where people take those values seriously.”
Rep. Sherrill’s predecessor, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, had faced intense criticism from some, during his last year in office, for his refusal to hold an in-person town hall. Activists held weekly “Fridays with Frelinghuysen” meetings outside his Morristown office in an effort to establish open communication with the congressman. On Jan. 13, Sherrill invited constituents to her new Parsippany office, beginning what will be an ongoing series of “Monday with Mikie” meetings.
The full video recording of the Jan. 27, 2019 town hall meeting is available on Rep. Sherrill’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RepMikieSherrill/videos/374208196493085/. The next “Monday with Mikie” will be held on Feb. 4, 2019, at the Woodland Park Municipal Building, from 10-11:30 a.m.. Future events will be posted on Sherrill’s website at https://sherrill.house.gov/.