EDITORIAL | Let's hear it for town halls

It really doesn’t seem like a big ask of our elected officials: Give your constituents a platform to voice their concerns, and be there to listen.

We don’t mean an open email inbox.

We don’t mean a phone line staffed by assistants.

We’re talking about town halls. Honest to goodness, non-virtual, in-person town halls.

It’s admittedly a low bar to clear, but in this tenuous political climate, we tip our caps to the 36th Legislative District delegation of Sen. Reuven Carlyle, and Reps. Gael Tarleton and Noel Frame for hosting a crowd of hundreds last month at Ballard High School to both discuss the status of various efforts in the legislature, and to hear from those they represent. There’s another one coming up on March 11 at the Leif Erickson Lodge (2245 NW 57th St.) at 11 a.m.

We salute Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who will host a town hall 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 6, at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave. as the first in a series of events throughout the wide-spanning 7th Congressional District.

Of course, not everyone has been as willing to meet in-person. 8th Congressional District Rep. Dave Reichert has defended his decision not to host public town halls meetings, saying during an interview with KCTS 9 that such events are no longer civil and respectful affairs. While his effort to meet with small groups (eight people maximum) is welcome, it would take dozens upon dozens of those get-togethers to hear from the hundreds who protested outside his Issaquah office last week.

We’d also like to see our state’s members of the Senate — Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell — host these types of events in the near future. While it’s a bigger burden for them compared to, say, senators in New England who represent far fewer people, and don’t have to travel nearly as far to and from Washington, D.C., it’s still a reasonable request. Block out a long weekend, and make your way to Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, Spokane, and the Tri- Cities.

While an email or a phone call can be an effective method of advocacy, there’s something tangible and powerful about seeing your representative listen to your concerns first-hand.

No matter the position, being elected to public office does not automatically grant immunity from unfriendly crowds. Even in the friendliest of districts, there are plenty of residents who casted ballots for your opponents. That’s politics, and an election comes with the understanding that you represent all, and not just those whom supported you from the get go.

While we stress the need for civility and respect in these discussions, for the sake of greater understanding and the potential for positive change, skipping out on such events just widens the divide. If a town hall spirals out of hand, and devolves into little more than a shouting match with no dialogue, few would begrudge a politician that would draw such an event to an early close.

But it’s hard to know that such public meetings aren’t worth the time without actually holding one in the current political climate.