The police officer standing at the doorway of the Town Hall auditorium and the signs reading "No Signs" and "No Backpacks" warned that Rep. Jim Himes' visit Saturday morning could be a contentious one.
Himes also made stops in Ridgefield and Trumbull Saturday for town hall meetings on Afghanistan. After greater-than-expected turnouts in Stamford and Southport earlier in the week, the Ridgefield forum was moved from the 70-seat town hall conference room to the 500-seat Ridgefield Playhouse.
More than 100 peopled showed up in New Canaan for a forum that was civil for the most part, but at times did get heated.
The New Canaan forum opened with a moment of silence for former Republican First Selectman Dick Bond who passed away Thursday.
Then the fourth district Democrat, just back from a three-day trip to Afghanistan, summarized his first year in Washington. He spent the balance of the nearly two-hour forum absorbing criticism on topics from U.S. involvement in that country and the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, to health care reform and the use of stimulus funds.
Craig Johnson, who lives on Nursery Road, asked why more Recovery Act money hasn't been designated to alleviate problems like the annual flooding in his backyard from the Five Mile River.
A teenager named James, referencing a project on Afghanistan he completed for his AP history class last year, asked Himes what the Americans could do to gain the trust of tribal chiefs there.
Himes suggested the long term solution is to focus on building infrastructure like schools and roads, rather than using military force, though he added that would also be necessary at times.
"If we choose to withdraw, Americans don't stand by the people they say they're there to support," he said, claiming that the Taliban only has a nine percent approval rating in Afghanistan.
Tensions began to rise when the Q&A turned to health care reform.
"The healthcare bill should be voted upon by the people of the United States, just like we elect our representatives," said one man, asserting that the majority would not approve the reform.
Himes, who held a series of raucous town hall meetings on the issue last summer, said he took a poll in November in which 60 percent of respondents in his district favored health care reform, 57 percent favored a public option.
The same man asked why President Barack Obama's vow to close Guantanamo Bay and "release prisoners back into al Quaeda" was a good one.
"Guantanamo Bay is not a helpful symbol about who we are as a people," Himes said.
Someone in the back of the room interrupted, shouting, "Most people would not agree."