As reported by facethestate.com in Colorado, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) will conduct only a single meeting—but it’s purely by telephone. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) will hold a meeting—but only one.
The article adds, “U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, both Democrats, and Mike Coffman, a Republican, have not yet scheduled any town hall meetings for the August break, which runs Aug. 3 to Sept. 4. Staff for all three say dates and times will be announced shortly. A representative from Salazar’s Grand Junction office said they are ‘currently gauging interest before deciding where to hold the meetings.’”
“Gauging interest?” The whole country is experiencing record turnouts; huge issues are at stake on health care, energy, taxes and spending. We’re in a recession. And Rep. Salazar isn’t sure there’s enough to talk about?
The phone-in “Tele-townhalls” serve a useful purpose and can reach large numbers, but the system also enables politicians to dodge face-to-face meetings. This method lets the official hog the time and choose which caller—one at a time—gets to speak up. There is no group interaction and no feedback from constituents’ reactions. If you don’t care whether the audience is cheering you or booing you, then you’ve already got your mind made up how to vote. You’re going through the motions, not truly listening to the public. The phone system also keeps citizens from meeting and following up with others who share their viewpoints.
Having conducted hundreds of town halls during my 14 years in Congress, I know how important they are. No matter how tough the crowd may be, Members of Congress owe it to the citizens to show up and speak with them face-to-face.
Back to Colorado. At least two of its representatives are willing to face the public multiple times. As the article notes, “Leading the pack with the most scheduled constituent meetings is Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing the 2nd congressional district. He will host gatherings around his district August 7, 17, 19, 22 and Sept. 2 and 3. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, has announced two meetings in Woodland Park and Chaffee County, August 18 and 25.”