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Those who know U.S. history are aware that town hall meetings go back to the earliest days of the creation of our constitutional republic.
As a matter of fact, the first town hall in the United States was held in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1633. According to the history of these initial town hall records, every Monday a community bell rang at 8 a.m. calling the townspeople together. Here, they met to settle and establish “such orders as may tend to the general good as aforesaid.”
Decisions made at these town halls were honored as law and “every man to be bound thereby, without gaynesaying or resistance.”
The practice of these town halls soon spread throughout New England and became a means for citizens from all walks of life to have their concerns heard on important issues of the day. History tells us that these town halls became a foundation of early American democracy and are still used throughout our nation today, giving ordinary citizens the opportunity for open forums with their elected officials.
Over the past several weeks, our elected U.S. House of Representatives members have been on recess and at home in their local districts. The vast majority are going about the historical, democratic and tedious task of holding numerous town halls, sometimes facing hostile, raucous audiences. They see such as an essential aspect of their job.
As President Harry Truman once quipped, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”
My U.S. congressman, Rep. David Rouzer of North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District, seems to have an aversion for these public town halls. He hasn’t held one since March 2017!
The last one Rouzer held in 2017 got a little disagreeable with some tough questions and some attendees getting a little loud in protest. Congressman Rouzer can’t handle open opposition that gets somewhat cantankerous.
Since that time, Rouzer’s strategy has been to meet with small groups of business owners, agribusiness leaders and others, meetings that double as excellent photo ops and allow him to avoid having to face any tough questions about his congressional voting record or stances on current political issues.
Amazingly, a Brunswick County newspaper quoted Congressman Rouzer in March 2017 as saying, “Every member has a different way to communicate with their constituents. I enjoy town halls. I enjoy the give and take.”
Admit it, Congressman Rouzer, you exist in a Republican gerrymandered district that all but guarantees you will defeat any opponent with a “D” behind his or her name! No wonder you could care less about listening to your 7th District constituents. You have a gerrymandered district and a campaign war chest stocked with big corporate contributions.
It would seem from where I stand that Congressman Rouzer simply lacks the intestinal fortitude to hold a series of public town halls. In so doing, he would be giving a broad spectrum of 7th District constituents their right to be heard and to challenge their elected congressman concerning his voting record and where he stands on current critical domestic and international issues that affect their lives. Rouzer seems to have no interest in doing so.
Living in Johnston County, which is a part of the 7th District, one quickly learns that running for an office in this county and requiring the candidate to declare a political party affiliation, having a “D” behind his or her name on the ballot is like the kiss of death these days.
Expressing my sharp sense of sarcasm, if it were possible and legal to register a “sack of rocks” to run for an elected office in Johnston County and register such as a Republican, the “sack of rocks” would win over any Democratic Party opponent for that office.
Transparency and open, public debate are the bedrock of our democratic system. Congressman Rouzer seems to have a serious problem with both.
Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.