AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks defends his reluctance to hold a public “town hall” meeting – one that’s actually open to the public – with the explanation that people can always “schedule a private meeting.” I call BS.
Some meetings may need to be private:
- Me and my doctor
- Me and my rabbi
- Me and my lawyer
- Me and the party planner who’s coordinating my hubby’s surprise birthday party
These meetings are private for one reason: they concern one (or two) specific people with private concerns.
When I’m talking to my Senator, Congressman, or Alabama legislator we’re discussing public policy that affects hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. That’s not private business.
If we give our representatives a pass on taking a public stand on important policy issues, we are giving them a pass on accountability. What’s to stop Rep. Brooks from saying one thing in his 10am “private meeting” and then telling the 11am group something entirely different? If no press, recording devices, or witnesses are allowed, we get the standard: “Who do you believe? Your high-and-mighty Congressman or that group of ‘Democrat (sic) activists and anarchists’?”
Seriously, Mo Brooks actually referred to concerned citizens as “anarchists” at his private meeting on Thursday with the Huntsville Tea Party.
But what happens in a public meeting with hundreds of people on hand, press, and video cameras recording the event? Several important things:
- We hear from people from all walks of life. Those struggling with disabilities, job losses, health problems, veterans’ benefits issues, low wages, racial and/or religious discrimination, etc. These are people we may not know personally, but they share similar challenges and problems. We know that we aren’t alone in our concerns. That some problems are pervasive, not personal.
- When we hear from those people, we are forced to see them as fellow citizens, not caricatures or “anarchists.”
- We see our Congressman react to these unscripted questions and form our own conclusions about his competency and empathy. Is he spouting empty talking points? Taking follow-up questions? Or just asking someone to “turn off the mic” if he doesn’t want to engage?
That last part is what some of our representatives are afraid of.
They’re terrified of a free, unscripted Q&A session – one where real people with real fears and problems ask for help from the person who represents them. One where, if he gives a canned response or offers an outright LIE, he gets called on it.
That may happen in a “private” meeting, but nobody else knows about it. It almost never happens in a tightly-controlled “telephone town hall” meeting where calls are screened and only friendly callers can ask questions or offer follow-up comments.
Any elected representative who won’t meet with constituents in a public forum is not serving the public interest. Don’t let him/her con you. He/she isn’t “available.” He/she is a public chicken, not a public servant.
Do you live in AL-05? Here’s how to contact Rep. Brooks and ask for a REAL town hall meeting:
2400 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4801
Fax: (202) 225-4392
Decatur district office
302 Lee Street Room 86
Decatur, AL 35601
Phone: (256) 355-9400
Fax: (256) 355-9406
Huntsville district office
2101 W. Clinton Avenue Suite 302
Huntsville, AL 35805
Phone: (256) 551-0190
Fax: (256) 551-0194
Shoals area district office
102 South Court Street Suite 310
Florence, AL 35630
Phone: (256) 718-5155
Fax: (256) 718-5156
If he continues to stall and make excuses, there’s only one response.
If he can’t take the heat, maybe it’s time to get out of the House.