More than 200 people turned out for a town hall meeting hosted Saturday, July 17 by U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove.
The meeting, held at the American Legion Post 80 in Downers Grove, marks the first in-person event that the congressman has organized since the pandemic took hold. Casten said he was excited to meet face-to-face with his constituents.
The town hall did not focus on a singular topic, rather an array of issues that concern residents of the 6th Congressional District. From the pandemic and civil unrest to the 2020 election and the events that transpired Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, Casten acknowledged that a lot has changed since the last time he hosted an in-person event.
One audience member questioned why all of a sudden federal lawmakers are keen about pushing for an infrastructure bill. Casten acknowledged that lawmakers should have addressed infrastructure a long time ago and said it’s an issue holding everyone back.
“We have done infrastructure in this country, we just haven’t replaced at the rate it’s deteriorating,” Casten said. “Part of the reason for that is because we have, and I think this is personally a mistake. … We have always funded roads and bridges with a gasoline tax. The gasoline tax has not been raised in over a decade. As the cost of construction grows with inflation, the bucket of money we have to pay for it hasn’t risen and the vehicle miles driven haven’t kept up with it, either.”
The infrastructure bill touted by President Joe Biden promises to pay for improvements without raising taxes on the middle class, which Casten said makes for good and reasonable politics in the near term but is problematic at the same time.
“I think there’s a problem fundamentally when the thing that causes infrastructure to wear out imposes a cost that scales with one metric and the thing you need to pay for infrastructure scales with another,” he said.
When asked if Biden has demonstrated adequate leadership to show people the important role that vaccines play in navigating the pandemic, Casten said he supports the president’s decision not to mandate vaccines for those attending White House events.
“In my ideal world, everybody who doesn’t have some medical reason they should get vaccinated or is too young to be eligible should be vaccinated,” he said. “It makes us all safer. It prevents the spread. It keeps people from dying. The nature of our legal system is we don’t do that in this country. … I don’t think we need to relitigate how we’ve interpreted those freedoms in our courts, but I think we’re all trying to strike a balance between making sure that vaccine access doesn’t limit vaccine availability and then trying to make sure that everybody who has access goes and gets vaccinated.”
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
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