We welcome all kinds of opportunities to meet with our Congressman, and any forum is an improvement on his silence so far. But transparent and accountable representation isn't conducted over the telephone and via form letters. It requires regular two-way dialogue between representatives and their constituents.
The telephone town halls Rep. Frelinghuysen has held are not promoted in advance or open to all constituents. Constituents are pre-selected from some list, called at random, without prior notice, and they are not accessible to people with hearing loss.
A tele-town hall without advance notice and open participation is merely a telephone press conference, not a true dialogue with constituents. In-person Town Halls are a staple of American democracy for which there is no substitute. The Congressman used to hold them up until 2013 - why did he stop?
What happens in Washington is not theoretical debate for us. Policy decisions on health care, immigration, our nation’s right to hold elections free of foreign interference – these directly and seriously affect every single person in the district, regardless of party affiliation. It seems only sensible that elected officials would want all the information they can get on how to represent their constituents at this pivotal moment.
If the Congressman comes to the Town Halls we've organized, we would listen respectfully and hope he is willing to hear us in return. Our weekly visits to his office have been described as by The Star Ledger as "congenial, not confrontational." We are not looking for arguments – simply honest and respectful dialogue about our questions and concerns.
The Congressman has our phone numbers. We leave them every time we visit or call the office. However, we will encourage our more than 6,000 members to call Rep. Frelinghuysen's office with their phone numbers, from all 54 towns that Mr. Frelinghuysen pledges to visit or telephone. Will he open up participation to include us all in his efforts?