The news from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden that he will hold a town hall meeting is welcome, albeit long-overdue. It will be Jan. 24 at Hood River Armory at 8 a.m.

The people of this community have been waiting for the chance to talk to Walden, and now, finally, they will have it.

We know Walden will bring an open set of ears to the proceedings, especially since last fall, he abdicated his responsibility to the people of his home county by willfully breaking his promise to hold a town hall each year. The last one was in April 2017 at Hood River Middle School.

The Congressman routinely vaunts his “telephone town halls” which, while certainly a valid way of communicating with Walden, raises two questions: First, why he has repeatedly not returned individual telephone calls and emails from constituents? Hood River News has experienced this ourselves and we have heard about it repeatedly from local residents for the past two years.

Second: To term a call-in forum with any elected official a “town hall” is an oxymoron at best. Congressman, please keep in mind that town halls are intended as an extension of the commons, and the dual purpose of town hall meetings is for the elected official (and his staff) to hear from the people and for the people to hear from each other.

Live and in the same room.

Anyone who has ever done the telephone equivalent knows it is a far different dynamic, with virtually no sense of a common forum.

Speaking of this month’s forum: The time and place of the meeting is an interesting choice that has a cynical feel to it: 8 a.m. on a Thursday at a far smaller venue than the middle school. The 2017 event was held on a weekday evening. This made it possible for far more people to attend. Four other of Walden’s planned town halls this month happen at 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m.; most are at 11 a.m. or later.

He will go from Hood River to The Dalles for a 10:30 a.m. town hall on Jan. 24.

Walden has scheduled 16 town halls in one week, Jan. 18-24. By bulking them together as he has done, it results in a public input opportunity that is crimped and rushed.

We understand that booking a hall is a complicated matter, and the school might not have been available during school hours. However, a candidate town hall during class time is both worthy and the schools have been open to it in the past: Sen. Ron Wyden did so a couple of years ago, with students in attendance. It was a golden learning opportunity for young people to see democracy in action.

And as far as the crowded Oregon town hall schedule, we know Walden is a busy man whose responsibilities lie in District 2 and in D.C., where important issues are up in the air.

One of those is over the Mexico border wall President Trump wants to build, and credit goes to Walden for speaking out last week against the partial government shutdown. That vocal dissent with the toxic policies of the president is a rare one for Walden, making it all the more refreshing. May it lead to more such divergences, more examples of Walden showing he has perhaps regained his power of independent thinking when it comes to the Trumpiverse.

But back to the town hall as a long-denied opportunity for people to directly connect with Walden. Most people won’t be able to make it, and the fire marshal would have a problem with more than 500 people showing up; Armory officials also noted that they have only 180 chairs.

So, if you can’t make it to the town hall, we offer this service:

Send us your question. We will publish it, for Walden and others to read. We ask that you limit your words to 50, and please include your name and home town. We will do two things with your questions:

Send your questions for the Walden Town Hall by noon on Jan. 18. No anonymous questions, please.

Email hrnews@hoodrivernews.com; or deliver them in person to our office at 419 State Street, or mail them to P.O. Box 390, Hood River, 97031.

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