Congressman Tim Walz may hold a tele-conference meeting on health care reform to get input from his 1st District constituents, although he’s also considering a traditional town hall meeting.
Some constituents have asked for the in-person meetings, reports the Mankato Free Press.
But the paper also notes there have been problems with similar meetings around the country:
Democrats and other supporters of health care reform have argued that insurance industry lobbyists, other reform opponents and anti-Obama groups have organized “mobs” to come to town hall meetings to harass members of congress — rather than discuss the issue — and to create a false image of the amount of opposition to reform efforts.
Walz’s staff reports they’re considering the tele-conference, which the paper notes was used by Walz’s predecessor, Republican Gil Gutnecht:
It involves publicizing the toll-free conference call phone number and the time of the call and then allowing people from throughout the 1st District to dial in.
Anyone can listen, and those wishing to ask questions can be placed in a queue to be heard by Walz and other listeners when their turn comes up. Other than Walz and the questioner, all other voices are muted.
Averting a mob hijacking, says the staff, isn’t the main benefit of the tele-conference:
More important is the opportunity for involvement that would be provided to people across the sprawling 1st District, which stretches across southern Minnesota from Wisconsin to South Dakota. It also allows people to participate without the expense of travel or hiring a baby sitter.
“We still haven’t totally ruled out a traditional town hall,” she added. “There [are] benefits to both.”