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“Where is Mike Bost?”

That’s the question many 12th District voters have been asking after Rep. Bost did not schedule an in-person town hall meeting during the time he was back in the district last week.

The general premise behind the campaign, which gained traction on Facebook, brought protesters to Bost’s Carbondale and Belleville offices, and inspired many Letters to the Editor, is that constituents want to have an honest conversation with Bost and the rest of the community.

Most of the conversation surrounds the Affordable Care Act and what is going to happen now that GOP lawmakers — with a cooperative Republican president — are moving to repeal and replace it. It’s an important topic for our community, and it means a lot to a lot of people in Southern Illinois.

Bost needs to have this conversation in a public setting.

The Murphysboro Republican did host a tele-town hall meeting in mid-February, but that’s insufficient for a subject as important as this one. Some constituents are claiming they were not given sufficient notice of the event.

Raucous town hall meetings all over the country, including in Arkansas, Louisiana and New Jersey, last week saw rowdy crowds that have shouted down senators and congressmen over the impending promised repeal of the ACA.

A statement last week from Bost’s office said town halls “have been derailed across the country in an effort to disrupt the honest conversation that representatives need to have with their constituents. Rep. Bost wants to ensure that conversation continues unimpeded and is open to receiving feedback — both positive and negative — from the constituents he represents. That is why this week he met with health care professionals at two Southern Illinois hospitals in three locations, hosted an Agricultural Advisory Board meeting with local farmers, spoke with students at Murphysboro High School, and had 12 individual constituent meetings. Among the constituents he met with were protesters who demonstrated outside of his Belleville office. Additionally, Rep. Bost recently hosted a telephone town hall meeting, which reached over 85,000 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in Southern Illinois. Constituents who would like to participate in the next telephone town hall are welcome to sign up at bost.house.gov.”

And then in a meeting last week with The Southern’s editorial board, Bost said, "The in-person ones going on around the United States right now are out of control, which means you don't actually get to talk to people and listen, and we're looking for ways to do that."

Rep. Bost, the people of your district elected you to lead. There are going to be tough times, precisely like this. The people of your district want to have their voices heard, and doing it over the phone or the internet just won’t do.

Will it be tough? Yes. Will there be some difficult back-and-forth? Yes, absolutely. Is the best thing to do right now for the constituents of the district? Yes, most definitely.

But it has to happen. The people of the district deserve a chance to vent.

“The amount of time that I have at home is minimal, I need to make sure that it’s productive,” Bost said Friday. “You know the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where you’d put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them? That’s not what we need. We need to have meetings with people that are productive.”

We agree that Bost’s time should be used in a productive manner. That’s fair to him, as well as fair to the people of Illinois’ 12th District.

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However, it is part of his job description to, from time to time, take the heat. A leader should not be reluctant to meet with his constituents personally.

We appreciate that Bost used his week in Southern Illinois to talk to hospitals and health care providers to get a better understanding of what needs to be done. We really do.

But, his constituents need him, too. Bost was elected to represent the people, not just institutions.

And this goes out to all the GOP lawmakers out there avoiding the town halls – listen. Then, look for answers for your constituents.

"I'm not going to have the public town hall meetings, in that respect, because I am busy trying to work on the issue," Bost said. "If all you want to do is stand and yell at me ... we're not going back and forth."

Well, there’s very little back and forth going on anyway, especially in a tele-town hall meeting.

Rep. Bost, let the people of the district have their say — good or bad. You will gain the respect of your constituents.

And, bottom line, representing their interests is the job you were elected you to do.

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