Wanted give and take at town hall meeting
February 24, 2012 · Updated 11:37 AM
I attended the 23rd Legislative District Town Hall Meeting at Poulsbo City Hall on Saturday (Rep. Sherry Appleton, Rep. Drew Hansen, Sen. Christine Rolfes).
Usual practice at a “town hall meeting” is for public conversation (spoken question and answer) between voters and legislators. This is healthy democracy.
However, if this recent program is any indication, our local democracy is not healthy. Although many members of the public took part of their weekend to attend (standing room only), the legislators chose not to interact directly with the public. Instead, legislative aides requested written questions. Then, Democratic Party moderator Jim Sommerhauser reformulated limited questions for the legislators. There was no way for the public to know how closely his approximation followed the originals. Nor was follow-up taken.
We got to see our three legislators dutifully stand and expound, but in no sense did we hear a honed answer to a specific question tied to a specific member of the public.
Restricting audience participation to a chance to politely applaud indicates only one thing: legislators’ fear of the electorate. Our legislators are duty bound to account to constituents, not merely to show up. New England town meetings are vibrant affairs, not canned and planned agitprop from representatives of a single political party. Next time, let’s see an authentic town hall meeting with real give and take.
Mary Victoria Dombrowski