Field representatives for Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Liz Cheney, all R-Wyoming, faced an angry crowd Tuesday afternoon during an event at Albany County Public Library designed to relay public questions and concerns to their congressional representatives.
Complaints covered a wide array of topics, ranging from the Republican Party’s healthcare proposals to concerns about the environment and public lands.
But the most-repeated complaints were those raised about the length of the event and the congressional delegation’s absence.
The first resident to speak, David Polizzi, said Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney had no excuse for not being there — a sentiment that was echoed by many of the 50 or more people in attendance.
“You make time for what’s a priority,” Polizzi said. “And to set up a meeting like this — at 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday when working class families can’t come or take off of work — is disgusting … To not show up is so cowardly.”
Polizzi, like most who spoke, received a round of applause.
Jason Nichols attended the meeting wearing a tutu, in reference to comments Enzi made in April about how a man who wears a tutu into a bar and gets in a fight “asks for it.”
Nichols said Enzi’s comments were inappropriate and said members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation should be ashamed of themselves for not attending the event.
“You don’t represent us,” he said. “You’re not our representatives. You don’t belong here. I should be looking at Mike, I should be looking at Liz, I should be looking at John. I shouldn’t be looking at you.”
Laramie resident Frances Fryberger asked if the event was being recorded for the senators and representatives.
“I’m concerned because your bosses aren’t here that they’re not going to hear the tone of what is being conveyed today,” she said.
Jamie Gronski, Barrasso’s stand-in, said the session was not being recorded.
“We’ve been in other environments where there’s been a request that we not do so,” she said. “But I ensure you we will convey your tone.”
Office hours, as these biannual events are called by the congressional offices hosting them, were originally scheduled to last one hour, but it soon became clear that at least half the room would be unable to speak, in part because some residents at the beginning of the event took more than five minutes each to speak.
The congressional representatives said they had another meeting to attend.
“Regrettably, we are just about out of time,” Gronski said to the crowd. “I can assure you that in the future, we will have significantly longer. In Albany County, this will not be a problem again, you have my word.”
But many in the crowd were unsatisfied. Some called out they had plenty of time.
Others offered to follow the representatives to a new location if the room — the meeting room at ACPL — was needed for another event.
After conferring with each other, Gronski and the other congressional representatives announced they would cancel their next meeting and extend office hours until the room was needed for another event.
The extension elicited applause, after which the event continued for an additional hour.
During that extra time, members of the public continued to ask their surrogate representatives to support environmental regulations and LGBTQ issues and raised more complaints about the Republican healthcare plans.
Laramie resident Breanna Young said she was concerned people such as herself with type-1 diabetes would be punished for having pre-existing conditions under a new amendment to the Republican healthcare bill Congress is working on this week.
“I’m sure most of you did not have the type of money I need to pay for my disease laying around as a 22-year-old who just graduated college,” Young said. “It costs upwards of $10,000 a year for just my insulin … so, I would like the legislators to come to Wyoming to see the faces of people who will be affected by this new healthcare bill.”