Rep. Gary Palmer visits Vestavia Hills
Rep. Gary Palmer held a town hall meeting at Vestavia Hills City Hall on Monday night.
“He has taken on the tough issues out there, and he hasn’t backed down, and that’s one of the things I think I like about him – he stands his ground,” said Mayor Alberto Zaragoza.
Palmer addressed a crowd of around 30, first discussing his political concerns and then opening the floor with questions.
His first talking point was the Iran nuclear deal, which Congress will discuss when it returns from its August recess next week.
“We’ve got to explain this to the American public,” Palmer said. “This is not a good deal.”
Allowing Iran access to assets and nuclear weapons could open the door to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Palmer said. The issue should be dealt with through a national town hall, Palmer said. He suggested broadcasting details and informing the public so they understand the deal and then having Congress address their concerns.
One audience member asked when Iran could have a nuclear weapon if the deal goes through, and Palmer said he was not sure.
Palmer also focused on finance during the town hall meeting. Taking steps to minimize duplicate government entities is one way to reduce spending, he said.
“We’re not in there to slash and burn,” Palmer said. “We’re in there to try and do some scope and downsize the government, the cost of government and start this long process of getting our budget back under control.”
Palmer also emphasized the potential of crude oil to reduce the deficit. An area of crude oil in the Green River could bring in money to help offset the country’s deficit, he said, if there was an opportunity to export it.
“I think we’ve got a number of options going forward that could help us,” Palmer said.
One audience member diverged from the topics of energy policy to ask about medical marijuana and prison reform. As a retired army officer who suffers from PTSD, the audience member wanted to know Palmer’s stance on marijuana and the imprisonment of non-violent criminals.
Both topics are state issues, Palmer said, but he added that he does not support widespread use of marijuana. On the topic of prison overcrowding, Palmer cited work he has proposed to help prepare non-violent inmates for life after prison, including the option of gaining a high school diploma and being up for parole more quickly.
Frustration with Republican leadership also came up in the question portion of the discussion. Regaining the White House would depend on regaining support, Palmer said, and this had to come from rallying Republican voters.
“We’ve just gotta decide that the future of our country is worth the effort because the other side has,” Palmer said.A majority of American citizens, including Democrats, also believe the country is going in the wrong direction, Palmer said. The upcoming presidential election, however, could influence how party leadership interacts with its constituents, he said.
"I think what might ultimately change leadership is the outcome of this presidential election," Palmer said.
Dustin Chandler, an Inverness resident, said he came to the town hall meeting to support Palmer. These gatherings, Chandler said, help connect Palmer to his constituents.
"During his campaign, he said he was going to do all of these town meetings, and that is what I look for in a leader," Chandler said, "somebody who wants to stay in touch with the people that he serves."
Opening a dialogue with the community is something other political leaders should do, Chandler said. Even though he doesn't agree with 100 percent of Palmer's policies, he said he respects how Palmer stands his ground and voices his stance.
"He got to share his views on a lot of things, and I can agree with most of them. I may not agree with everything, but I think it went well," Chandler said. "Whether he agrees with his constituents or not, he stands by what he says and he has his opinion, and everybody should respect that."