What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Town Hall Meeting”?? Democracy? Voicing your opinion? One-on-one time with your representative? Nope. Not me. I think…”Re-election”.
It may just be me, but I think that town hall meetings (here on forward referred to as THM) are becoming more and more popular, or maybe we’re just hearing about them more in a vile attempt on our representatives parts to reach us, the constituent, “the people”. It seems like everyone from Barack Obama to Rep. Gabby Giffords to our glorified city councilmen & women (a.k.a. State Senators) are hosting them.
Have you every been to one? Luckily, I have, so I can share my experience with you. As someone with an interest in North Fulton County, I attended a town hall meeting hosted by Senator John Albers. It was formally arranged with a venue, newsletter invitation and a decorous start time. I was greeted by about 5 other constituents and about 15 volunteers from the Albers campaign team (this I know because I was one of them). People were scattered around seats like a 3pm viewing of the new Fast & Furious movie. The Senator was then “introduced” (wait, I thought this was supposed to be some community get-together, not an event to honor a celebrity?) . He began talking
to at the crowd few constituents that braved the event and there was a question and answer session to follow (brief, because whats to talk about?) Then we left.
Not much was accomplished, not much was established…just a little gloating on the part of a local politician. The same one that is “one of us” and “wants to hear from us”. I can say with confidence that 5 people don’t represent the greater population of Roswell. But BOY OH BOY would you think they did. Of course this event (yes, we went from THM to event) was highly publicized–with photos–and let me tell you, from the angle the photo was taken, you would have thought that house was PACKED!
That leads me to the why. Why do politicians host town hall meetings? They aren’t to sway an elected officials’ opinion on a topic. They may be for constituents to present ideas for officials to work on legislation for…but I’m not convinced. They may be an opportunity for constituents to complain about legislation that was passed during session (like, maybe about a bike law that was passed in such a vague fashion it makes you want to cringe because you know that a 5 year old could pick out the issues with the contents (or lack there of) of the bill) but the legislation is already passed, so there isn’t really much action that can be taken. That really only leaves one thing: re-election.
Town hall meetings aren’t about the people, they are about the politician. They are about looking like they are constantly out in the public, talking, mingling, etc. They are an image thing. It’s all about staying in the public eye. Thankfully, voters are wising up. Stepping up to the plate and doing their research and realizing that image isn’t everything and it’s more about what legislators can actually do for the community and its’ people.