Town Hall to Go On

May 10, 2017

To the Editor:

The town hall is a time-honored American tradition that has its origin in 17th century New England. The modern town hall has evolved. It is no longer a place to conduct the town’s business. Rather it serves as a venue for constituents to voice their questions and comments to their representatives, and to hear from others in their communities. After all, if your member of Congress is to represent you, he or she clearly needs to know where you stand on the issues.

In 2009, Democrats were pummeled by conservative constituents; this year it is the Republicans’ turn in the hot seat. In response, many of our legislators are foregoing this tradition, suggesting that the town hall creates viral moments of protest by paid agitators.

To the contrary, I believe that the town hall is democracy in action. I do not represent any group or political party; I am not a paid protestor. I am a voter and a citizen who believes in democracy.

My congressman, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, has indicated that he is uncomfortable with the town hall format, believing they only produce YouTube moments, and prefers small meetings with his constituents. To his credit, he has held numerous such meetings in his office in Mays Landing.

I attended one of these sessions. It was polite and respectful. Then we left. End of story.

While I respect Mr. LoBiondo’s dislike of the town hall format, I also respect our citizens’ right to ask questions and offer comments at a time and place that is convenient to them. This is what democracy is.

Sadly, we are living in a political atmosphere that is full of angst. People are angry, impassioned and fearful. I empathize with congressmen who do not want to willingly subject themselves to voter anger. But constituent passion about an issue is important to hear and should not be squashed. Nor should it be confused with disrespect.

So without partisanship and without personal rancor, I reached out to a few like-minded friends and together we organized a town hall for Frank LoBiondo’s district. We invited him, but we will conduct this meeting with or without him. If he is unable, or chooses not, to come, we will deliver a video of the proceedings to his office along with written questions and comments from the participants. Hopefully he will respond to as many of these as time allows.

We promise to do our best to maintain an atmosphere of civility while allowing people’s emotions to be channeled to where they belong – the desk of Congressman Frank LoBiondo.

Our town hall for the 2nd District is May 31, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Teamsters Local 331 hall, 1 Philadelphia Ave., Egg Harbor City.

Tamar Sherer

Long Beach Township


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