WEST WYOMING — State Rep. Aaron Kaufer is going the extra mile to reach to out citizens.
The 120th Legislative District representative will hold a series of morning talks with his constituents throughout the area featuring coffee, doughnuts, and a chance to let it all out.
At the first “Coffee with Kaufer” event on Friday, topics of discussion ranged from tax revenue, education funding, pension reform, welfare reform and others.
Kaufer, R-Kingston, stopped at the West Wyoming Hose Company No. 2 and chatted with nine residents for nearly two hours. He said it was a great way to break the barrier between the government and its citizens.
“It’s just so people can come, sit down and have a true conversation,” Kaufer said. “It’s like having an informal town hall where people can come in and talk about what’s on their minds. When I’m in Harrisburg, it’s kind of like I’m separated from the districts so to be able to come back and hear what’s on people’s minds is the number one issue.”
Though it was Kaufer’s first open discussion event in the district, he said it’s important to allow citizens a chance to meet face-to-face with governmental leaders.
“I’m used to talking with people,” he said. “Having gone to thousands of doors, I’m used to these discussions. Sometimes it’s a family, sometimes it’s a couple of people; you just never know and you don’t want people to be fighting within the group and going at each other. But, it’s nice to sit down and have an honest conversation about what’s going on in our area and our region. People have their own set of experiences, bringing in their own perspectives, and it’s nice to hear what those perspectives are.”
Of the items discussed, Kaufer said property taxes is one of the the biggest concerns for residents. He said he’s working on a plan to eliminate them completely.
“We talked about property tax for a while and listening to stories about housing going up for sale. I wish it was a story I could say I heard once, but it is the number one issue,” Kaufer said. “It’s the number one issue of our area and it needs to be addressed. We’ve been pushing for property tax elimination with the house bill reduction plan and I’ve been talking to the Senate and governor in hopes to get a full property tax elimination.”
It wasn’t just West Wyoming residents in attendance at the discussion with Kaufer. Margaret Kile, a 65-year-old Kingston native, said she was eager to attend the gathering Friday morning.
“I talked about the welfare,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair straight across the board and for instance, I know for a fact that there are some people cut off with children at 9 or 10 years of age due to casualties in their family.”
Kaufer said he plans to take stories like Kile’s back with him to Harrisburg to help deal with situations like what she went through.
“When you hear people talk about how they fell through the cracks, those are the things that are hurting right now,” Kaufer said. “We can’t rebuild the middle class while we’re in need of helping others. We have to find that balance, and when you get to hear those personal stories, it resonates with you. It stays with me.”
Kaufer said he is excited for his next open discussion with locals and hopes this is something he can do more of in the future.
“We have three more planned and I do plan on doing some other town halls as well in the future,” he said. “It’s great to have something like this.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher