Asbury Park Press

Health Care Forum Planned

Some fear venue is too small

Asbury Park Press — Thursday, July 9, 2009

By LARRY HIGGS
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU

The hottest issue in the country — health care reform — is coming to the borough, but Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who is hosting a town hall meeting on Aug. 25, said it's too late to find a bigger venue for the potential crowd that could show up.

Meanwhile, callers to the Asbury Park Press have suggested that more people will attend the Aug. 25 session than the borough hall courtroom can accommodate — a capacity of about 100 people — and they have suggested it be moved to a bigger place.

Pallone's office confirmed that the congressman will hold a town hall meeting from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the borough municipal building at 90 Monmouth St.

"We can't switch now. Notices have already gone out (to constituents) and there is no way to notify them again," Pallone said Friday after a press conference. "What will happen is people will get confused."

Notices were sent to constituents by third-class mail, and the 11-day period between Friday and Aug. 25 isn't enough time for a second round of third-class mailings to reach people, he said. Pallone estimated a renotification could take three weeks.

"If I switched (locations), it would have to be held a month later," Pallone said. "We'll stay until everyone's heard, but it's not possible to switch it."

That night could be a late night.

The heath care reform issue has drawn overflow crowds to similar town hall meetings held by members of Congress throughout the country.

One caller, who didn't leave her name, suggested using a school or the Count Basie Theater across Monmouth Street. However, a Melissa Etheridge concert is scheduled there that night. A man who called the Press said he personally knew of 75 people who are coming.

Other activist groups on both sides of the political fence such as New Jersey Citizen Action and Conservatives with Attitude have posted the times and locations of the town hall meetings on their Web sites and blogs.

Eastern Monmouth residents who can't squeeze into the Red Bank town hall have a second shot at a similar forum with Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, at the Middletown Arts Center, 36 Church St.

Pallone is holding another town hall meeting in the Piscataway municipal building on Aug. 24.

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