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Banks traveling across district

February 25, 2017 GMT

His Facebook page and Twitter feed show that freshman Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, has been traveling throughout his northeast Indiana district this week while Congress is on break.

There are photographs of him touring BAE Systems and meeting with the commander of the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, both in Fort Wayne. There are photos of Banks visiting the Red Gold tomato processing plant in Geneva, posing with the mayor of Montpelier and talking with a small gathering of people at a public event in Portland called “Connect with your Congressman.”

But people posting comments on Banks’ Facebook page want to know when he is going to have a town hall meeting in Fort Wayne, by far the largest city in the northeast Indiana 3rd District.

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“Allen County makes up half of your district. Most of that is in Fort Wayne. When will you come speak with your constituents here?” Barton Price wrote Monday.

“Still waiting for a town hall meeting in the city of largest population in your district,” Debbie Starr Branfield wrote Wednesday.

“Please do not shirk your duty to engage in person with all constituents, not just those who share your views,” George Craig wrote Thursday.

During an interview Wednesday, The Journal Gazette asked Banks whether he intends to have a town hall meeting in Fort Wayne at some point.

“I hope so,” he said. “I’m not averse to it. I look forward to those opportunities. The events we are having throughout the week involve hundreds of constituents throughout the district.”

He noted that he had a public open house Jan. 17 at his district office in the E. Ross Adair Federal Building in downtown Fort Wayne.

Republican members of the House and Senate have been grilled, jeered and booed by their constituents at boisterous town hall meetings throughout the country this recess week. Many people complained about the emerging policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, including those affecting health care, immigration, the environment and Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, according to news reports.

Banks said the audience at his public forum in Portland on Tuesday was “a respectful crowd” whose members expressed “a wide range of opinions on a number of issues.”

A photo tweeted by Banks showed only 11 people in the audience. Banks’ office did not notify The Journal Gazette in advance of the event.

The former state senator from Columbia City said he scheduled about 50 meetings this week with constituents and groups to talk about issues such as health care and the income tax code.

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Business leaders wanted to know about prospects for a border adjustment tax, which would add a 20 percent tax on all imported goods, he said.

Trump has appeared to waver on his support for BAT.

“I’ve had a number of meetings with companies like Vera Bradley, Do it Best Corp., that are worried and concerned about the BAT aspect of tax reform,” Banks said.

American manufacturers and retailers that import materials and products are generally opposed to BAT. Do it Best sells tools and hardware; Vera Bradley sells its own brand of handbags, luggage and accessories.

Banks said he opposes BAT and favors free-trade agreements.

“That’s an area of disagreement I have with the rhetoric of the president,” he said.

He was asked whether he is concerned about inconsistencies in the messages coming out of the Trump White House – such as whether it will continue to support the NATO political and military alliance.

“I’ve been critical of the president and his weak posture toward Russia, I’ve been critical of the president related to free trade,” Banks said. “I’ve been critical of the administration and their response to NATO, as someone who served on a NATO headquarters base with partners around the globe in Afghanistan.”

Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is a Navy Reserve officer who served in Afghanistan in 2014-2015.

“At the same time, I’ve praised the president related to a number of his Cabinet selections,” he said.

“I believe the president has shown good judgment in his Cabinet selections, a number of the most significant decisions he’s had to make so far,” he said.

bfrancisco@jg.net