TEA Party hosts outreach meeting

Anthony Holloway

Fifty Portage County residents attend forum

Local residents came out in numbers to listen to the Portage County TEA Party about “taking back control of your government.”

A local businessman, Tom Zawistowski, led the outreach meeting at the Kent VFW. He said he wasn’t sure how many were going to come out because of Kent’s diverse political beliefs, but turnout in other locations have exceeded expectations.

“We’ve had over 200 people at the other meetings,” Zawistowski said.

Last night’s meeting contained close to 50 people.

Jim Alekna, 70, of Kent said he has been a TEA Party supporter for as long as he can remember.

“I think the TEA Party movement is geared to represent the voice of the American people,” Alekna said.

He said the party stands for reigning in the federal government and giving more power to the states and local governments.

The Portage County TEA Party was founded nine and half months ago, but Zawistowski said the movement started in 2006 in response to government expansion of control.

He mentioned the Wall Street bailout as one point of contention. He told the audience former president George W. Bush and other politicians asked the American people to “fund” the bailout, but the responsible thing, that he said Washington didn’t do, is pay for part it.

“We need $800 billion,” he said role playing the spot of the government during bailout. “We’ve going to cut 15 percent of all these government agencies and that will make about $400 billion, and you guys need to come up with the other half.”

Zawistowski tried to get the crowd vocal and involved.

“Wouldn’t that have made you feel better?” he asked.

The pillars of interest, as discussed by Zawistowski, of the TEA Party are: belief in the constitution, support for the states rights, keeping government smaller and becoming involved in government.

Belief in the Constitution

Zawistowski stated the government is working with the constitution in mind. Health care is one issue he said is being unconstitutionally forced on Americans.

“There is nothing in the constitution that states someone has to have health care,” he said, “and I think the Supreme Court will see that.”

Keep government smaller

He pointed out that the founding fathers never intended the government to be too big to be out of arm’s reach of the people.

The example presented was how congressmen spend money on having offices at the location they are representing and in Washington. He said the money spent on travel could be saved if the representatives spend more time in the home office, where their constituents live.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to see them at the Pufferbelly while they are talking to a lobbyist and be able to go over and say, ‘Hey, who was that?’” he asked the audience.

He also stated the constitution stands for individualism.

Support states rights

The argument for state’s rights were reiterated like the early days of the constitution while the Bill of Rights was being considered, and he said the government is trying to take away the choices America stands for such as the right to have an abortion.

“The federal government is forcing itself on us, and the state representatives aren’t defending us,” Zawistowski said.

Audience response

Otto Rattai, 82, of Kent said he saw the meeting in the newspaper, and he wanted to “identify with it.”

He said one thing he looks for is accountability and that the TEA Party represents that.

“That’s what I didn’t like about (George W.) Bush,” Rattai said. “Don’t (get) me wrong, I liked Bush, but he just shrugged his shoulders when he was asked about the gas prices going up.”

Don McFall, Kent State accounting professor, came to the meeting with his wife to observe what had to be said.

“I guess we learned something,” McFall said.

McFall said people have painted the TEA Party as radicals.

“Some people have tried to characterize this as something radical, but people here don’t look radical,” he said.

McFall said fiscal responsibility is an issue he appreciated being addressed considering how it will affect the younger people.

“The more debt there is, the more responsibility for younger generations,” he said. “Something has to change.”

Contact public affairs reporter Anthony Holloway

at [email protected].