Town hall meetings should be encouraged

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @

The town-hall meeting is back and sweeping the nation.

The setting is older than the United States itself, dating back to the 1600s when community members would come together to work over policies and budgets for their towns.

The spirit of those traditional meetings lives on today.

These days politicians utilize such meetings as a way to open up a forum with their constituents.

It’s really a brave thing for a politician to stand up in front an audience of largely unknown people and become a possible political punching bag. These crowds often number in the hundreds.

The politician must face the people without the benefit of any spin doctors, publicists or aides. It’s the political equivalent of the free-throw line in basketball.

They don’t know exactly who these people are, or what their motives may be. The whole thing can very easily fall apart and become a politician’s nightmare.

A well-crafted ambush can make even the slickest of politicians look like lightweights.

These meetings are always full of journalists with cameras rolling and snapping away. Every angle is covered. The audio is always hot, so anything they say officially goes on the record. There are no re-takes.

The town-hall meeting is democracy in action and in its purest form. It reinforces the power of the people.

The recent round of meetings have been front-page news for weeks now. Some of the more emotionally-charged meetings have been the center of attention in the media and at the water cooler.

Several politicians have been met with hostility. Some town-hall meetings have been boisterous and unruly affairs, resulting in shouting matches and physical confrontations.

It’s worth pointing out that not all politicians have faced the public. Some, perhaps for fear of the wrath they’ve seen aimed at others, have decided to sit this round out.

Those who have taken a seat on the back benches should be called out for their lack of action. It should be made known to them that town-hall gatherings can be beneficial.

Such meetings let politicians and their staff learn about where their constituents stand and what they feel is important.

To avoid confrontation simply to dodge potential embarrassment does a disservice to the constituency.

These meeting do not have to be extravagant affairs. Simply an hour or two of speaking and taking questions shows voters that they’re important to the political process.

The voters should not tolerate being ignored. If they want to meet with their representatives, they should demand it.

If their requests fall on deaf ears, they can show their dissatisfaction in the voting booth the next time an election rolls around.