Earlier this week, No Labels released a report demonstrating how a majority of Congressmen were not holding town hall meetings during their August recess and urging them to do so or to take other action to empower their constituents and hear their concerns.
After a media uproar, many Members of Congress now are holding meetings and others are complaining that they always intended to. Check out the following story:
No Labels, a new political group that says it’s trying to find a new center for political discourse, took members of the U.S. House to task this week for ducking town hall meetings during the August recess.
All well and good. The problem is that there are doubts about the accuracy of its survey finding that 60 percent of the representatives aren’t holding an open town hall where constituents can come and question them on the issues.
At least that’s the case if Oregon is any indication.
The group claimed that only one of Oregon’s four congressman — Democrat Peter DeFazio — is holding town hall meetings this month. But it doesn’t take much looking to figure out that isn’t the case.
Democrat Kurt Schrader listed two town halls on the front page of his website, one that he held Tuesday morning in West Linn and another Wednesday morning in Keizer. I received an email advertising both events on Aug. 11, long before the No Labels survey came out. (After I contacted No Labels, they updated their survey to show that Schrader had indeed held a town hall).
Similarly, Republican Greg Walden, shows on his website that he held a town hall in Heppner on Aug. 11 and “community meetings” in Long Creek the same day and in LaPine on Aug. 10. David Sykes, publisher of the Heppner Gazette-Times said the event in his community was advertised beforehand, and Walden did indeed show up and spoke to about 30 people.
“We wrote a big story about it,” said Sykes.
Democrat Earl Blumenauer is arguably the one Oregon congressman who didn’t hold the kind of town hall that No Labels is looking for. One of his aides, Willie Smith, said Blumenauer did hold an open meeting with residents of the Mirabella retirement community in Southwest Portland as well as local businesspeople in the Multnomah and Sellwood neighborhoods.
Smith said Blumenauer prefers to hold meetings focused on a particular issue instead of general town halls. “Earl doesn’t think they are necessarily productive,” he said, adding that they too often involve “you yell a talking point, I yell a talking point.”
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
Jonathan Miller, a former Kentucky state treasurer and a founder of No Labels, said his group believes the town halls are indeed important for building trust with voters. If nothing else, they show voters that members of Congress are actually working during the August recess.Miller said he was confident of the survey’s overall findings but conceded it could contain some mistakes.
What do you think? Should Congressmen hold town hall meetings, or was last summer’s experience an indication that they no longer serve a useful purpose?