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Residents tune in for Welch town hall talk

ADDISON COUNTY — Three hundred sixty callers dialed in on Tuesday night for an hour-long Addison County telephone conference with Vermont’s lone congressman, Peter Welch. Fielding questions from county residents, the Hartland Democrat tackled issues ranging from those far afield — like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — to those closer to home, including concerns about energy efficiency, the effect of health care legislation, and dairy industry and immigration reform.
At the beginning of the telephone “town hall” meeting, Welch told listeners the issues he most commonly hears from Addison County residents include concerns about jobs and the economy, rebuilding the Champlain Bridge, helping the floundering dairy industry, and investing in a western rail corridor.
During the call, Welch expressed support for immigration reform in response to a question from a Cornwall woman, telling listeners that it’s important to change immigration laws to create “an open and transparent process.”
“If we’re not going to let our farmers have access to the help that they need, then we’re not going to have dairy farmers,” Welch said.
He also backed the controversial health care plan signed into law in March, though he said he was sad to see the public option excised from the bill that passed the Senate. Welch spoke about his recent trip to the Gulf of Mexico and the extent of the devastation he saw caused by the BP oil spill; explained how legislation he introduced to encourage energy efficiency could help Vermonters; and voiced support the job educators are doing in local schools after a caller from Orwell expressed concern about students’ test scores.
Of the 360 callers who dialed in for portions of the call, 32 got in line to ask Welch a question, and Welch was able to speak with 12 of those callers on air during the hour-long conversation.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com

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