MacArthur Reverses Course and Will Hold Town Hall Meeting on Monday in Waretown
Congressman Tom MacArthur has had a change of heart.
The Republican will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Waretown Volunteer Fire Co.’s Station 36, located at 117 Wells Mills Rd. in Waretown.
In mid-February, MacArthur, who represents New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, told the Asbury Park Press that “his town hall schedule is on hold because he doesn’t ‘want to be baited into having an event that some outside group can just make a spectacle out of.’”
Instead the lawmaker held a one-hour telephone town hall on Monday, Feb. 13 where constituents were invited to call in with their questions.
According to an Asbury Park Press report, during that telephone town hall MacArthur “alleged that colleagues had their events disrupted as ‘hundreds or people have been bused in and have been organized and in some cases have even been paid to disrupt and to steal your voice. I think you have to realize what’s going on all over the country. Public town halls are being hijacked by groups that are outside the district that (the) member represents. You’ve seen them on TV.’”
Why the change of mind?
On Feb. 23 MacArthur was at the WOBM studios in Toms River to hold his monthly “Ask the Congressman” show. WOBM said, “This month’s program came at a controversial time, as dozens of Ocean County residents took to the streets of Toms River in protest of a perceived lack of public town halls by the congressman.”
After ending his radio program MacArthur met with protesters who had gathered outside the studio and later that evening discussed the impromptu meeting on his Facebook page:
“Tonight, during my regular ‘Ask the Congressman’ radio program, a sizable group of my constituents peacefully demonstrated outside the WOBM studios. I respect each of them – those who disagree with me as much as those who agree with me – for exercising our most precious, God-given right of free expression.
“After the radio program, I went out to the group and promised I would honestly answer their questions and asked in return that they would let me speak without drowning out my answers. And that began some genuine, open, respectful conversation that touched on a range of issues including healthcare, gun control, the environment, and of course President Trump.
“As I shared with constituents tonight, I grew up with a mom who was a progressive Democrat and a dad who was a conservative Republican. They loved each other and I love and respect both of them. Talking with this crowd tonight was like dinner back at home. I’m grateful for those who took the time to make me a better representative and I always welcome the opportunity to have productive conversations with my constituents.”
So coming away unscathed, MacArthur decided to schedule a town hall, announcing it to the media via a press release and the public via social media on Friday morning.
“Congressman Tom MacArthur would like to invite you to join him for a Town Hall Meeting on March 6 in Waretown,” read his Facebook post. “You should feel free to extend this invitation to anyone who may be interested in attending.”
MacArthur asked those who planned on attending to click on a link on his Facebook post to RSVP “so we can do out best to accommodate demand for seating” and also said “seating will be provided on a first come, first serve basis. RSVP does not guarantee you entrance to the building.”
Law enforcement officers, the announcement added, will be on hand “due to safety requirements” and all personal items are subject to search. No bags or signs will be permitted into the building.
The town hall meeting has already sparked a heated debate on Facebook.
Many people, such as Kevin Tober, were quick to thank MacArthur. “Thank you Congressman!” Tober posted. “I’m looking forward to being there! And expressing my gratitude for all you do for us.” “I’m glad to see this,” wrote Susan DiLeo. “Hoping you’ll schedule another town hall in Burlington County.”
Others, though, were critical of MacArthur. “Appreciate you finally doing a town hall,” wrote Justin Sharkey. “But why no signs? Are you scared the optics will look bad or are you scared people may get paper cuts?” “I will be there,” said Tara Catrell. “And I will be there early. But it is unfortunate that it is over an hour away from my home in Burlington County. And I know that many people in my area will not have the opportunity to attend, given the time, place, travel distance, and limited amount of people allowed in. You know that you purposely chose this small, far away location so that you hopefully could get as many of your local supporter(s) in as possible before the Burl(ington) Co(unty) Dems can even get there. Like I said, I will be there early, so I hope to get in. But it is incredibly unfair what you are doing. Don’t think we don’t see right through you.”
It should be an interesting Monday evening in Waretown.
— Rick Mellerup