SOUTH SALT LAKE — Hundreds of locals turned out Saturday to express their opinions on how they would like Rep. Jim Mathseon to vote on the health care reform bill on Sunday, many carrying signs and wearing T-shirts with their opinion on them.

Kristen Price, of Salt Lake City, began reading the bill after it became available on Thursday and became increasingly concerned. She said she had never been to a rally before, but this was important to her. So Price called her friends and agreed to meet outside Matheson's office in South Salt Lake Saturday to encourage Matheson to vote no.

Shortly thereafter, Nikki Norton, state director of Organizing for America, heard about the planned rally and began gathering supporters of the bill to counter Price's group. Norton used Organizing for America, the community-organizing group announced by President Barack Obama, to spread the word about the rally.

"This is our last chance to deliver a message that his constituents would like him to vote yes," Norton said. "I talk to so many people who are facing losing their jobs, that to also lose their health insurance — our country is better than this."

Norton estimated 300 supporters in attendance, most carrying signs that read anything from a simple "yes," to a more dramatic "give me health care or give me death," to a common "standing together for health insurance reform."

Carla Hitz, of Sandy, is self-employed and uninsured. She said she showed up to support the bill Saturday because she believes this is "the defining issue of our time."

"If we can leave our own citizens uncared for, then that is immoral as far as I'm concerned," Hitz said. "It's akin to stepping over a sick person in front of you and saying, 'you're on your own.' "

Diane Done-Adair and Mike Adair brought their three sons, Luke, Max and Sam, to the rally to allow them to be a part of an issue they think is extremely important.

"Our health care system is No. 32 in the world, yet we pay six times more than anybody else," Adair said. "There's got to be a change."

Done-Adair, who carried a sign that read, "Health care is a civil right," expressed her concern for people who have a pre-existing condition struggling to get coverage.

"It's the right thing to do," Done-Adair said of voting yes. "Kids go without help because they have a pre-existing condition."

Faith Gartrell is a health care provider in the VA hospital. She said the system run by the federal government works very well, which is why she supports the bill and hopes it will pass.

After chants of "vote yes Jim" and "health care now" died down, supporters marched into Matheson's office building to leave their signs of support outside his door. Matheson is in Washington, D.C. As the rally of support for the bill came to an end, the rally against the bill picked up, with Price's group of friends growing to match those on the supporting side still in attendance. The two groups faced each other and chanted their respective slogans of support and dislike.

"If there's one bad part of this bill, then it's a bad bill," Price said. "I'm not against health care reform, I just think we need to start fresh with health care."

Price said she appreciated the freedom that each group had to gather and express themselves, and she wants to preserve that right.

"I feel like the bill is laying down a foundation to take those freedoms away," Price said.

14 comments on this story

Individual debates continued between people with opposing views. Bryan Money explained to Jim Turner his reasons for opposing the bill.

"I am opposed to government-controlled health care to this degree," Money said. "I believe that this bill goes way too far."

Money also said he doesn't think the U.S. has the doctors and resources to make the kind of leap proposed in the bill. The two men respectfully acknowledged and responded to the other's ideas, while the loud chants continued steadily around them.

e-mail: ejames@desnews.com