Most Monday nights, it might be hard for politicians to attract a crowd of constituents to an event where many have to wait more than two hours to speak their mind.
But this was no ordinary Monday in Woodbury.
With Minnesota facing a projected budget deficit of $5 billion dollars, east metro residents came out in droves to a legislative listening session to testify their concerns on proposed solutions to solve pressing issues facing the Legislature.
More than 250 people from in and around the east metro filed into the Central Park amphitheater Monday night to give area legislators something to chew on in the midst of the state's current budget crisis.
The budget listening session was the 15th of 20 hearings scheduled to take place around the state. To date, more than 4,000 people have attended the town hall-style sessions, legislative aides said.
Residents and health care professionals pleaded with legislators not to cut state funding for disability programs. A number of attendees and small business owners demanded that government take a note from the private sector and cut state spending to balance the budget.
Woodbury resident and small business owner Ted Harrison asked legislators "to balance the budget not on the back of business, especially small business."
Jackie Wagner, a mental health professional, was one of several speakers to ask legislators to reject any proposal to cut funding for rehabilitation therapy for those on state medical assistance.
The meeting started at 6 p.m. with a state budget presentation by the Department of Revenue and soon transitioned into a listening forum.
A dozen-plus state House and Senate members got an earful for the next 2 1/2 hours.
More than 100 people were signed up to speak in advance of the meeting's start, House legislative assistants said.
Area legislators from both the House and Senate were present at the meeting, as well as tax committee chair Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington.
Several times Lenczewski was compelled to attempt to quiet members of the audience who applauded after some instances of public testimony that was limited to 1 minute, 30 seconds per person.
By the time the session wrapped up, dozens of residents and professionals had stepped up to the microphone.
Other listening sessions are on Feb. 25 in White Bear Lake and Burnsville and Feb. 26 in St. Paul, Coon Rapids, Plymouth and Forest Lake.
For more on this hearing go to www.woodburybulletin.com