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Wednesday, August 30, 2017 1:00 am

Voters want constructive talk: Banks

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks said Tuesday that his constituents want civil discourse, and he's going to give it to them.

Banks, R-3rd, said all 40 appointment slots for his first “Coffee with your Congressman” were filled within days after the event was announced last week.

He will welcome a few people at a time into his Fort Wayne office on Thursday evening to discuss for 10 minutes whatever is on their minds. Appointments were made on a first-come, first-served basis, Banks said, and his staff is keeping a waiting list in case of cancellations.

“What I find as I travel the district is that my constituents are hungry for substantive, constructive conversations, a dialogue or civil discourse that they're not finding in the political culture today. That's what I hope to foster through this,” he said in a telephone interview.

He said Thursday's event at his office in the E. Ross Adair Federal Building is patterned after Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry's “Mayor's Night In” and the “Connect with your Congresswoman One-on-One” programs conducted by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th. Both of those series have given people the chance to schedule a short period to talk with elected leaders in private about topics of the constituents' choosing.

“If it goes well, and I anticipate that it will, we'll do it again, maybe many times in the future,” said Banks, a freshman lawmaker from Columbia City.

Brooks has appeared at nine “Connect” events throughout her central-Indiana district this year, according to her website.

Banks said “Coffee with your Congressman” will not replace town hall meetings in which he fields questions and comments from larger audiences at a public venue. Banks has had town halls this year in Portland, Decatur, Warsaw and Auburn, plus an open house at his Fort Wayne office.

“We're not doing this to circumvent doing any more town halls, because I enjoy the town hall meetings,” he said about the coffee talks. “We're just trying something different. We'll see how it goes.”

Asked how much coffee he will consume Thursday, Banks replied, “I can drink a lot.”

bfrancisco@jg.net