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Virginians Have Spoken: Richmond's Role in "America Speaks"

June 29, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - "America Speaks" asked, and Virginians answered. Richmond was one of 19 cities chosen as official locations for national town hall events on Saturday. The forums, which were linked together by video and streamed online, invited participants to discuss and share opinions about complex issues concerning the national budget. The event was organized by the group "America Speaks," and co-sponsored by the City of Richmond and the nonpartisan Commonwealth Institute, where Michael Cassidy is the president and CEO.

"It really gave people in our state a chance to participate in this interesting and innovative national town meeting, but also to bring their own concerns and viewpoints about what are their hopes for our country and what they think the challenges facing us are."

In all, about 3500 people across the country participated in group discussions and used computerized keypads to weigh in on issues, including about 75 Virginians. Some solutions that received broad support were to raise tax rates on corporate income, reduce defense spending, and raise the age for receiving full Social Security benefits to 69.

Cassidy says the "America Speaks" town hall has received criticism from groups on both the left and the right that are focused on single issues regarding the budget. He notes that the budget picture is much more complex, and participants on Saturday seemed to 'get' that.

"Folks really understood that it's going to take a whole array of choices and policy changes in order to address the very significant challenges we face with our country's fiscal future."

"America Speaks" will present the results of the town hall to the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform today.

More information is at www.usabudgetdiscussion.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA