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Sen. Baldwin holds town hall at Prescott High School

After the Prescott town hall meeting Wednesday, April 12, Sen. Tammy Baldwin took pictures with teacher Jeff Ryan (center) and high school students. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks with constituents at Prescott High School on April 12. Baldwin addressed issues such as recent Syria bombings, college affordability for students and Americans with Disabilities Act. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Prescott Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza asked Sen. Tammy Baldwin about students rights with disabilities in public education and what can be done to make their education easier and rewarding. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Former Prescott Teacher Todd Langenfeld asks Sen. Baldwin about the United States recent actions towards Syria, specifically in regards to the April 7 cruise missile launch at a Syrian airbase. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

PRESCOTT—Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) held a town hall meeting at Prescott High School on April 12, taking questions and hearing concerns from her constituents.

The crowd was mostly welcoming to the senator with around 60 residents coming, along with most of the high school.

Prescott High School social studies teacher Jeff Ryan invited Baldwin to speak at the school; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) spoke to his class the previous day. Johnson did not hold an open town hall, rather a question and answer session with students.

Baldwin scheduled the town hall in quick time, giving a day's notice, as she's going from "the east coast of Wisconsin, to the west coast of Wisconsin." No notice was made on social media accounts or her website.

Shortly after walking out on stage, Baldwin said she was excited to listen to people's questions and comments during these "uncertain times" with the election of a new president, but said she is impressed by how much feedback she has gotten from residents all over Wisconsin.

"I have seen remarkable engagement," Baldwin said. "Remarkable input. I don't think in my Senate office I have ever received a volume of phone calls, emails, letters compared to what I'm receiving right now."

During a discussion about the endangered wolf population and the Endangered Species Act in Wisconsin, Baldwin was interrupted by a man in the crowd to raise questions about the Syria bombing on April 7.

Baldwin tried to calm the man down and said if the man waited in line, she would address his question.

The man continued to interrupt Baldwin saying "How about we get to reality for a second and stop lying to all these children in here."

Baldwin continued by saying "I have comments on all these things," but the man insisted that she didn't and that she "wasn't dealing with reality."

Todd Langenfeld, a former teacher at Prescott, had a question similar to the man in the crowd about the cost of the cruise missiles used on April 7.

"We lobbed 59 cruise missiles in the Syrian air base the other day," Langenfeld said. "The cost of a cruise missile, I'm not sure how much it is, but it's a hell of a lot of money."

Langenfeld continued by criticizing the government's stance on Syrian refugees and what kind of damage was done to the Syrian air base itself.

"It seems to me that this seriousness that we're having right now, to what the gentleman is speaking to, is very serious," Langenfeld.

The man interrupted Langenfeld by saying that Democrats also voted for the cruise missiles to be launched and that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigned on bombing Syria.

Baldwin didn't provide cost numbers to fire the cruise missiles and said the Russians were warned of the strike, but she was unaware of what time.

Baldwin claimed that she didn't receive "consultation before the strikes."

"I believe I've heard that one or two members, a handful of members of Congress in each house were given advance notice," Baldwin said. "But those of us who've studied our Civics well knows the president has authorization to take unilateral should we face imminent threat."

Baldwin said the previous two administrations have been operating in Syria under the authorization of use of force against terrorism. This was created in 2001 after the terroristic attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11.

Baldwin believes there should be a consultative role in the missile launches.

The man, who didn't give his name, continued to interrupt other speakers on the same topic, but did not speak directly to Baldwin.

Other items discussed:

• Baldwin said she is "deeply disturbed" by the amount of money that is spent in electoral politics after being asked by a Hudson woman if there is a possibility of eliminating Citizens United and large sums of money given to lobbyists. Baldwin said eliminating Citizens United would be a "good first step," but that it would be difficult. Baldwin suggested citizens look into a "grassroots movement" for people looking to make a change.

• Molly Hoopingarner, a Prescott student, asked what could be done to make college more accessible and affordable. Baldwin said she hopes students are given options to refinance their debt. Baldwin said a repeal of the law should be looked at.

• Kieran Lapcinski, a Prescott student, asked Baldwin's opinion of Native American images/likenesses used in amatuer, college and professional sports. Baldwin said she has been active in trying to urge leadership of the Washington Redskins to change their franchise's name.

• A woman asked about the endangerment of the wolf species in Wisconsin. Baldwin responding by saying she sees "significant threats" to the environment and ability to enforce the Clean Water Act due to cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency. Baldwin said she is a believer in the Endangered Species Act.

• A woman questioned why the United States still uses military force in the Middle East and if the United States is working in the best interest of a company or person(s). Baldwin said as long as there is a war on terror it will never end. Baldwin said the Senate needs to look and possibly rescind previous authorizations.

• Betty Miller, a Prescott resident, asked about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it could be strengthened. Baldwin said she wants to provide options for people who have mobility, vision, hearing and language impairment.

• Prescott Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza asked what "hope" that Baldwin can speak to in regards to bipartisan bills and laws. Spicuzza also asked about further improvements and money in education for children with special needs. Baldwin recalled her earliest days in politics, saying how people at lower levels of local government don't even represent a party and how bipartisan discussions are constantly happening. In regards to special education, Baldwin said the frustration she hears from local people working closely with education is something that constantly happens. Baldwin said local education issues that are federally funded need to be moved to an area where schools can be equipped with more local resources.

• Leif Nelson, a Prescott student, asked about Baldwin's opinion on gerrymandering and the unfair redistricting of congressional districts. Baldwin said it's "consequential" for district lines, at a local or larger level, to be fair and exudes a "robust debate."

• A representative of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections asked Baldwin about the possibility of a government shutdown and the lack of federal funding for correctional institutions. Baldwin said that she's "guardedly optimistic" there will be no government shutdown.

• A River Falls woman had a question about Electoral College changes. Baldwin said she hopes that smaller states' voices will be heard among the higher population states. Baldwin acknowledged there are many arguments she's heard for "modification" or "elimination" but Baldwin said it should be given "deep thought" and that it's a "big undertaking."

• River Falls resident Katie Chaffee asked about her stance on climate change and how Congress can stop President Donald Trump from "dismantling" the EPA. Baldwin said she likes "to be a hopeful person" and that she's "deeply concerned about this issue." Baldwin called it an "epic challenge" and that it will be "really hard for this Congress" to change and that people speaking out can help.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism.