Mariposa & Yosemite

Radanovich's town hall on health care subdued

KERMAN -- With both houses of Congress moving forward on health-care reform legislation, Rep. George Radanovich held a town hall meeting Monday afternoon in this west-side community to hear from constituents on the controversial issue.

In many ways, it was a kinder, gentler version of a town hall meeting held in August by Radanovich's congressional colleague, Visalia's Devin Nunes.

A few of the 100 or so attendees had questions, but most only had opinions.

Some even had written talking points, and sometimes the comments varied far from health reform -- to issues such as war or the role of government in people's lives.

Radanovich, a Mariposa Republican, didn't cut off anybody. The only sign of rancor was an occasional groan or a short barb -- mostly from conservatives in the crowd reacting to a comment in support of a government-run health-care option. The only commonality between the political left and right concerned the time and place for the meeting -- a Kerman warehouse on a Monday afternoon.

Fresno resident Camille Russell asked Radanovich to schedule another meeting -- in Fresno, and in the evening -- so more people could attend.

"Got the message about the time of day," Radanovich said at the end. His staffers said a Fresno town hall is in the works.

Still, some asked: Why now?

"It is kind of odd, because the big town hall meetings happened during the [August congressional] recess, when they were supposed to be happening," said Thomas Holyoke, an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fresno.

Nunes' sometimes-raucous town hall was in mid-August, when angst was peaking and Republicans seemed to seize control of the debate.

"The first thing that comes to my mind is George Radanovich seems to be a couple of months behind everybody else," Holyoke said.

Though Holyoke questioned Radanovich's timing, he said having a meeting now might be more appropriate, because the legislation now being debated in Congress is more developed than what was on the table in August. After the meeting, Radanovich echoed that.

"Nothing is really settled yet," he said in an interview. The legislation "is changing all the time."

It was clear from Radanovich's opening statement that he opposed the legislation -- though he did say reform is needed.

A majority of those present Monday agreed with him.

"I don't think we should have a right to health care," said Fresno resident Jim Verner, who said he lived in the United Kingdom, where government programs "destroyed a sense of responsibility" in that country.

But not all felt that way.

Fresno resident Hank Dwyer said a government-run system is the best -- and would keep small businesses alive because they wouldn't lose quality workers to larger companies that offer health benefits.

In the end, the comments offered to Radanovich are likely moot, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

"GOP House members have no influence on this bill," he said. "It's a 100% Democratic piece of legislation. The town halls were mainly Kabuki theater, and I'm not sure they did a lot of good, or swayed many members one way or the other. This will be a party vote in the end."