U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, congressman for Nebraska’s first congressional district, will hold his yearly town hall with constituents at 3 p.m. Friday at Columbus High School, 3434 Discoverer Drive.
The format will largely consist of a basic town hall meeting, with Fortenberry allowing residents to make their voices heard on issues like flood recovery, tariffs, health care and immigration. Fortenberry visited Columbus after the March flooding to tour businesses that had been damaged by floodwaters.
Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley will be in attendance and noted that anticipation for the event is already high.
“I think it’s great that he comes out and hears what the people have to say,” Bulkley said. “I give him credit for trying to get it scheduled into his schedule and finding a time that will fit for Columbus. He comes to hear what the constituents have to say and how they are feeling about things that are going on.”
Fortenberry will likely touch on recovery from the flooding as a major topic of interests. Businesses are still reopening after the flooding and people are still trying to figure out what can be salvaged and what cannot.
“I would think that he would touch on our recovery from the flood in this part of Nebraska, in Columbus and the surrounding area,” Bulkley said. “I think he’ll touch on that and hope that things have come along and if there are issues that he can help with.”
Farming should also be an issue of high importance. Fortenberry has shown concern in recent years about President Donald Trump’s actions on exports from China and other countries and how they affect farmers in his district. Bulkley said that an update on current work to help farmers affected by the tariffs is possible.
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“I would think he’ll touch on trade (and) how things are progressing in his mind,” Bulkley said. “That’s always an area that many of our industries are interested in.”
National issues are also likely to be touched upon at the meeting, with immigration a topic that’s at the front of many minds in the district. Fortenberry is a strong supporter of President Trump’s immigration agenda.
“I think they would like to see some movement on immigration,” Bulkley said. “But what can one congressman do other than tell us some of his feelings and what he’d like to help get behind?”
The Columbus town hall is the end of a three-day trip through the district that will include stops in Lincoln, Bellevue, Fremont and Norfolk. Bulkley said that people should expect a meeting that largely goes according to order, and while heated discussion on the key topics of the day is normal, no one should come in expecting fireworks.
“He doesn’t come in with an agenda,” Bulkley said. “I think he just tries to get the pulse of the community (and) I think our community is pretty good. I think they’re pretty comfortable right now. I can’t think of anything specific that they’re going to jump up and say, ‘Handle this and get this taken care of.’”
The Telegram contacted Fortnberry's office, but representatives said they were unable to speak on the record for this story.
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.