It seems to be getting warm in those venerable town hall meetings, the ones in which the Congressional Representatives bask in the warm glow of their constituent’s adulation, until, of course things get TOO warm. There’s nothing unusual about Representatives and Senators taking meetings with groups of constituents, for example Republicans meeting with corporate leadership, Democrats with leaders of civic and labor organizations. However, there’s a point at which larger gatherings are appropriate, unless, of course, the Representative can apply some of the following dodges.
The Ostrich Strategy
The strategy is simplicity itself: Insert head into sand, cover ears and wait for the danger to subside. It appears this strategy is in current vogue. Consider the following information, in the first two months of the 115th Congress 292 Republicans have scheduled just 88 in person town hall events (35 of these are accounted for by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin). In the first two months of the previous Congress Republicans held 222 in person town hall events. [vice]* a subscription to Legistorm provides basic information on Congressional activities.
The Venue Shell Game
Senator Tom Cotton appears to be managing a version of this dodge.
“The meeting was first scheduled to take place at The Jones Center in Springdale on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Due to the high number of people to attend, the venue was changed to the Arend Arts Center at Bentonville High School.
On Monday, Bentonville Public Schools said the “tentatively” scheduled Town Hall with Cotton will not be at the Arend Arts Center due to “insufficient time to make arrangements for the visit.” [nwahome]
If they can’t find you…they can’t find you. Works every time.
The Long Distance Runner Game
Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) scheduled a town hall meeting a short while ago, with perhaps an eye towards minimizing the possible aural damage, in Winnemucca, NV. Now this is nothing against Winnemucca, it’s a nice town, it is also conveniently located some 166 miles from the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, and 123 miles from Elko.
We can guess that Representative Amodei isn’t the only one adopting this strategy. He may also have been applying another element, as described below.
The Private Audience
There’s nothing so comforting as a meeting among friends. So, invite only your friends. Again, timing is important here. Private sessions are absolutely nothing new, and nothing uncommon. However, optics and timing are important. If the times call for open town halls and imaginary Representative Bilgewater fears for his ears, then it’s time to call a session with the local Chamber of Commerce; should hypothetical Senator Sludgepump fear for his, then it’s time to meet with the Conservative Pet Lovers of East Deer Breath.
Senator Heller and Representative Amodei are reported to have a Chamber meeting in Carson City tomorrow, and a signage demonstration is planned for 10:30 am at the Gold Dust West. Notice, this is in Carson City, 31 miles from the Reno-Sparks area. What can’t be ignored is that there are no reports of Heller and Amodei open town halls in that Reno-Sparks area (the majority of voters in District 2) and in Las Vegas, the largest metropolitan area in the state Heller represents.
The Telephone Town Hall Scam
Senator Heller has employed this one in the not so distant past. It goes like this. Have a telephone conference call from which questions are solicited from the public. However, the fog descends almost immediately. Are the questions pre-screened? There’s no way to know with absolute certainty, but someone has to be taking the calls like a radio call-in broadcast so chaos doesn’t happen. Thus, it isn’t too hard to imagine that some pre-screening is happening.
These town halls can also be re-cycled. The contact with the constituent begins with “You are invited to participate in Senator Sludgepump’s telephone town hall. If you have a question for the Senator press (number) and give your name and address…)
It doesn’t take too many conversations to figure out that if Constituent A heard the town hall on Monday evening, and Constituent B heard the same town hall on Tuesday evening, then we can assume people have been listening to a canned recycling of a political campaign pitch. Hardly a town hall.
A truly creative Representative might avoid town hall settings until (1) forced to announce a venue, subject to immediate change because of the response, and (2) change the venue enough times to challenge the social media capability of constituents to respond. Then (3) settle upon a venue in beautiful downtown Moose Butt Butte miles and miles and miles from the nearest metropolitan area. Should this not work (4) set up those old phone bank lines, record, lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, blather, rinse, and repeat.
There are work-arounds
If the Congressional members won’t host a meeting DIY. Schedule a venue, invite the Congressional representative, advertise, publicize, inviting members of the local press. If the representative won’t turn up, then have the meeting anyway, recording all the speakers who had questions. Share with the local press, and social media. Why not?
Call the Congressional representative’s office. Leave your message. Politely ask the staffer to leave your message of the day – and yes there’s nothing wrong with doing it daily. After all, how is your Representative supposed to know what you’re thinking if you don’t communicate, and surely there’s enough fodder for at least one phone call per day.
Representative Amodei’s local phone numbers are: Reno 775-686-5760; the Elko office number 775-777-7705. Heller’s phone numbers are: Las Vegas 702-388-6605, Reno 775-686-5729.
Phones can go to voice mail, and voice mail can be “full,” but never fear, the mail will always get through. Since after the anthrax attacks of yore regular snail mail is very slow, but post cards are much faster:
Amodei: 5310 Kietzke Lane, Suite 103, Reno, NV 89511 and 905 Railroad Street #104D, Elko, NV 89801.
Heller: 8930 West Sunset Road #230, Las Vegas, NV 89148, or Reno: Thompson Federal Building Suite 738, 400 South Virginia St, Reno, NV 89501
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