Representation via press release is not enough.
Waves of emailed statements (but never phone calls) come out of Greg Walden’s U.S. Second District office, on a variety of topics. But this newspaper has had one face-to-face interview with Walden in the past six months. And what is more of a problem, only a select few people from the community have had access to him.
Several requests to schedule a town hall have been made by this newspaper, in print and in phone and email communication with Greg Walden and his representatives. We asked again this week. Nothing has been scheduled.
“We will inform you of a town hall when we schedule it” is the office mantra.
Walden might bristle at the “Where’s Walden” mantra, but the barb is deserved.
What are we talking about when we say “town hall”? It is a free and open meeting, held in a large gathering place, in which constituents can hear from the elected representative, and vice versa, on any topic of public interest.
Town halls are in no way connected to party affiliation or campaign donations. But in the past 16 months, while in Hood River County Walden has offered his attention only to fellow Republicans and donors and fundraising events, (and some of those fundraisers have been out of district altogether).
Greg Walden has for years kept, mostly, to his promise to hold one town hall a year in each of his counties. He is in danger of violating the letter of that vow, and is on the knife edge of violating the spirit of it because, practically speaking, any town hall scheduled from here out would take on the feel, if not the reality, of a campaign appearance.
And that’s too bad; these events need to be about the issues, not the campaign — and there is a difference.
Had Walden truly followed through on his vow to hold a town hall annually in Hood River County it would, ideally, have happened by now. Town halls do, of course, take on partisan, if not campaign qualities, but they should be as free of these overtones as possible. And it is getting too late in the year — too close to the November election — for any town hall to maintain its primary role and function: an opportunity for the elected person to speak and the electors to be heard.
The town hall should have happened in April or May, one year after his last one. The reasons are several: For starters, certainly the sooner the better, and in a timely manner. People want to hear from their elected representative.
Next, Walden said he would do so. His spokesman’s statement that the promise is “one each calendar year,” just naturally comes with an implicit, “ooohhhh, okay.” Sure, go with that.
Next, 2018 has been a vibrant and troubled political year, yet no sign of Walden here in Hood River County. People want to communicate with Walden on numerous hot topic issues, including immigration, health care, federal spending, environmental de-regulation and climate change. Then there is the GOP’s pandering to President Trump, which Walden has yet to answer to. (Whatever happened to the man who said he is “in the room” with the president?)
Criticism or complaint for his platform or performance aside, people around here want the chance to let Walden know what it is they want him to work on. That’s his job, or at least a major part of it: To listen and respond. At last report, letters regarding immigration handed to him in a box at the April 2017 town hall were never responded to by him or his office, despite his at-the-microphone vow to do so.
And how is he really gauging what his constituents want? He avoids public appearances and has repeatedly avoided press inquiries from this newspaper, and has a track record with constituents of ignoring phone calls and emails.
The last time Walden came anywhere near Hood River County in anything resembling an open, public session, was a Condon “town hall” in February that Walden only termed a town hall after the fact, a meeting he convened only after the Wheeler County folks got wind of his presence in the community and demanded it.
Walden no sooner comes to his hometown than he schedules a root canal. Perhaps the man’s teeth are in perfect condition, but he looks like a leader who has lost his bite.
We call on Walden to give Hood River County its due on his busy schedule, and immediately schedule a town hall and make it soon.