Legislators need to encourage town hall forums

The amount of anger, hatred, vitriol, division and fear currently dogging the United States might be unprecedented.

But the conflicting moods and friction currently in play across the country should not keep federal lawmakers from holding open forums with their constituents, often referred to as town hall meetings.

Lawmakers should consider such meetings as one of their basic responsibilities and an essential part of their public service.

They should acknowledge such sessions’ relevance, even if they personally aren’t fans of them.

It is the people back home who cast the votes that allowed lawmakers to ascend to their positions of federal governmental responsibility. Now that they’ve been elected, it’s their responsibility to maintain direct contact with the districts, states and people who demonstrated confidence in them.

Those who feel above doing that, or who lack courage to meet face to face with constituents, some of whom might not agree with what they’re doing or what is happening in Washington, need to reassess their attitude toward future terms of service.

It’s right that constituents not cease demands for such sessions when their House and Senate representatives, for whatever reason, choose not to accord them the right to be heard.

And, unfortunately, that face-to-face right, allowing many people to gather for discussion and questions enabling issues to be dissected, even is being denied here in Pennsylvania by way of various shallow, unacceptable lawmaker excuses.

Congress will start its spring recess upon adjournment April 6 and won’t be reconvening until April 17. That window of time will provide plenty of opportunity for town halls in every House district.

Meanwhile, the length of the recess will afford U.S. senators, who represent entire states, to hold a similar session or two in different locales.

All considered, it’s important to note that whatever town halls are held by House members and senators shouldn’t be quick in-and-out discussion events that do little more than multiply people’s frustration.

Based on everything that’s happening in the country now and the fact that, because of work or other responsibilities, not all people are available for daytime or evening sessions, lawmakers should go out of their way to accommodate constituents.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that lawmakers schedule such sessions for eight hours — four daytime and four evening hours.

Lawmakers devote many hours to lobbyists and other special interests. They should likewise set aside ample opportunity to listen to the opinions of their constituents, whether they’ll like everything they hear or not.

And, if they, for whatever reason, are fearful of their well-being because of anger prevalent in the country, they should hire security for those public meetings.

Their generous publicly provided expense accounts have the flexibility for such a purchase of service.

The angst and protests currently being witnessed across this country’s landscape are not unlike the divisiveness that existed during the Vietnam War years. The difference is that back in the 1960s and ’70s the divisiveness centered on one issue, the war.

Today, many issues are causing consternation and unrest. That’s why it’s imperative for lawmakers to open more opportunities for face-to-face discussion with those whom they serve — and that they be prepared to respond to opinions and concerns expressed.

On the issue of town hall meetings, Americans should accept nothing less.

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