Sept. 6 marks six full years since the last town hall held by Rep. Erik Paulsen¹. He has stated several times that he’s held over 100 town halls², but that’s a distortion of the truth.
Through public statements by the congressman³ along with a conversation I personally had with his office, it can be determined that he considers the following to be “Town Halls”: unannounced pop-up appearances in supermarkets, corporate appearances, carefully controlled and unannounced conference calls, scripted videos, and even emailed newsletters.
While there are many kinds of constituent outreach, true town halls are among the most important and serve a distinct purpose. Unlike private, small group meetings, in a town hall statements are public and on the record. Constituents can expect a representative to stand by them. While representatives can’t be expected to make everyone happy, they can at least be expected to explain their reasoning.
Many constituents in Paulsen’s district would like to help the congressman understand what they’ve been asking for over the last six years: a town hall is an open, in-person, pre-announced public meeting where unscreened questions and follow-ups are heard and answered on the record.
But I don’t think the congressman truly misunderstands the definition of a town hall, and that’s actually more problematic. He knows that town halls are important enough that he has to say that he’s holding them, but he doesn’t value them enough to actually do so. That’s deceptive, or at the very least intentionally misleading. If constituents can’t count on clear truths about this essential responsibility of the office, how can they trust the rest of what Paulsen says?
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