First District congressman Jim Hagedorn’s approach to town hall meetings seems inconsistent with his campaign promises and contrary to a general expectation that members of Congress should meet and listen to their constituents.
Hagedorn took heat from some constituents last week for not holding more town hall meetings. Some members of the left-leaning Indivisible group have been visiting his Mankato office weekly, waiting to be heard and waiting to speak to the congressman.
After several attempts, Hagedorn’s staff met finally with small groups of the constituents, though Hagedorn has yet to appear. His Mankato office is on the third floor of a Mankato office building, hardly the most accessible place to reach.
Hagedorn promised that he would hold 21 town halls across 21 counties once elected. He has had one in-person town hall meeting since being elected and an “autodial phone call” town hall two weeks ago. The first was in Truman near where his family is from and the phone town hall was for Nicollet County.
Those attempts fall far short of the expectations people had for the promised town halls. The phone town hall was not announced in advance, though Hagedorn’s office said that was due to technical issues. And while a phone town hall may work for people who can’t easily travel to an in-person town hall, there’s potential that calls can be screened, shielding the congressman from critical callers.
Hagedorn argues he walks in parades and attends meetings with business and other groups. These events don’t provide the same kind of access a town hall would offer.
Today’s town halls are clearly more raucous than the polite town halls of the past, but that’s to be expected given the divisive political environment. Hagedorn’s allegiance to President Donald Trump is no doubt the motivating factor for his constituents’ desire to talk to him face-to-face.
People have a right to be heard. Elected representatives have a duty to make sure they are. Hagedorn is falling short.