The topic of impeachment came up several times Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Community Matters Town Hall Meeting in which Congressman Jim Himes spoke.

Himes, a Democrat, is serving his sixth term representing the 4th congressional district in the House of Representatives.

At the gathering, which lasted over an hour and had a packed house, Himes first discussed what he called pertinent issues facing the United States, and then he took questions from the audience.

State Sen. Carlo Leone was in attendance as well as Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.

In response to a question about making the impeachment process open and transparent, Himes said that on Wednesday and Friday, there would be open and televised hearings involving three diplomats who would be interviewed by Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee.

“These open hearings will be followed by consideration in the Judiciary Committee,” Himes said.

He added that the president is afforded the same due process protections in this process that presidents have been afforded in past impeachments.

“If the Judiciary Committee chooses to put articles on the floor, the president will have the opportunity to interview witnesses in the Judiciary Committee, to respond to those articles, to submit written testimony,” he said.

If the articles were to pass on the House floor, there would then be a trial in the Senate.

Ranked-choice voting

Himes said he supports the concept of ranked-choice voting.

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots.

“It’s also known as an instant runoff election,” Himes said. “If no candidate in a ranked-choice election receives a majority, the bottom vote earner gets reallocated to the other candidates.”

Himes said this system would enfranchise people. “I think it shifts some of the momentum or power towards the more moderate position, which in my opinion would be a good thing.”

Medicare for all

When Himes was asked if he would co-sponsor or promote HR1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019, he hesitated.

First, he said this act would dramatically reduce the payments that go to healthcare providers, hospitals, and doctors. “And by substantially raising taxes,” he said.

“I would like to see us focus on the actual system,” he said.

In regard to how health care can be more effective and efficient, Himes said to continue to “evolve away” from a system where everybody gets paid for making people better when they’re sick. Instead, he said he encourages a system that “incentivizes a healthcare profession to keep people healthy.”

Climate change

When a young boy in the audience asked Himes about Himes’ policies with regard to the environment, he talked about the efforts the U.S. is making to address the effects of climate change.

Himes spoke about putting in place a refundable carbon tax.

With this tax, “solar and wind energy are more competitive with burning coal and burning gas,” he said.

He also said America needs to be investing in efforts, such as “advance batteries,” that would store the power that gets created when the sun is shining.

“We could create the kinds of batteries that would run the town of Darien for a week,” he said.

He added that everyone needs to do a better job about conserving the energy that does exist right now.

Himes then told the boy that he should remember to turn off lights in rooms when no one is in them.

“So we all have a role to play,” Himes said.

The media

A question that brought a large round of applause is what the U.S. is doing to change how the media are being run.

In response, Himes said it’s important to become educated on both sides of an issue.

“We have got to get serious about being better consumers of information. Make sure you get ideas that make you uncomfortable. It’s your obligation as an American citizen.”

In addition, he added that it should be a requirement that whoever buys an advertisement on social media to identify themselves.

“We are citizens of the greatest democracy in history and we forget that democracy is not a gift,” he said. “It is something we as individuals work and fight for every day.”

Election security

Despite the efforts Himes said he sees being made by foreign countries to probe America’s election mechanics, he said he isn’t concerned.

Himes recently had an election security update session with Denise Merrill, secretary of the state for Connecticut, and said they both “feel pretty good that the technical side of going into our electoral apparatus — we are well positioned to detect such attempts and to stop such attempts,” he said.

He added that breaking into the election system in the United States is “actually pretty hard to do.”

“Elections are administered at the municipal level so we have a fabulously fragmented system. When you vote here in Darien, the equipment you use is not connected to the Internet,” Himes said.

What Himes said he does worry about, however, are all the efforts made to manipulate people’s thinking.

“In a society in which free expression is a value, people get to try to manipulate you,” he said.

He showed some advertisements that were purchased by Russians in advance of the 2016 election.

He said there’s really no way to stop, particularly in a “polarized and emotional environment,” the ability of Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran to manipulate people based on the information that they see.

He added that Americans have to remember that what they see online may actually be “an attempt to get at each other’s throats, to manipulate you. We all need to be thoughtful and critical about where we get our information, what it is, and what people might be trying to do.”

Watch the full Community Matters meeting on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com