My daily calls to Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office for the town hall schedule information for Art As Social Inquiry’s daily log, Tracking Town Halls: Do Unscripted Constituent Public Gatherings Matter? , is sometimes met with curt politeness.
“Nothing is scheduled as of right now,” I am often told. “As of right now,” implies that something could be scheduled 5 minutes, an hour, two hours from now. The staff technically fulfills their duty by giving me the “correct” information in the 60 seconds I am on the phone with them.
But any thinking person would connect the dots and ask, “Why is getting town hall information from the congressman’s staff so difficult?” It’s just information like any old movie listing,or the departure and arrival board at Philly International Airport.
Does the congressman not want us to know when town halls are? And what would be his reasons?
When asked about why we couldn’t know in advance about the August 3 “town hall,” where the congressman shared the stage with a representative from the group, No Labels, the staff told me they put the notice in the newspaper when they knew.
The town hall was scheduled at a college. Obviously the space was reserved in advance. Having helped organize events, I know all kinds of arrangements need to be made in advance — logistics with security, parking and other accommodations. Institutions work on schedules. A speaker from No Labels had to be booked.
For the congressman’s office to say that the August 3 event at a college was only confirmed when the notice went in the paper on August 2 really insults the intelligence of the average person to the point where one giggles at the silliness of the statement. We cannot run our lives that way, and who would believe that a congressman, a member of the United States Congress with schedulers in Bucks County and Washington D.C., would not know well in advance.
Fitzpatrick said representing a “more challenging district makes me better representative. I have to listen and respect everyone’s opinion.”
That comment didn’t fly with everyone in the crowd of about 80 people. Robert Mason of Levittown said he became “very angry” listening to Fitzpatrick. He’s one of several people who have called on the Republican to hold town hall meetings on major topics, including health care, immigration, and Social Security and Medicare reform.
“We’ve been after him daily,” he said. “Today, in an hour and 20 minutes, (by his count) there were six questions from the audience and four from the moderator. That does not represent the main purpose of a town hall. It hardly gives the opposition an opportunity to vent their frustration. Why is (Fitzpatrick) so adverse to talking to constituents with different points of view?”
Clare Finkel showed a reporter a printout of a Fitzpatrick newsletter emailed Friday afternoon that didn’t mention Saturday’s event. “I don’t understand what he’s afraid of,” she said.
So what’s up with the Congressman’s reluctance to have town halls and to let people know about them IN ADVANCE?