Thursday, May 3, 2012

Town hall meetings -- giving citizens a voice

Reps. Roger Goodman and Larry Springer
taking citizen questions at a town hall
meeting in Kirkland City Hall.
You may have participated in a town hall meeting via telephone.

Town hall meetings with lawmakers now happen in person, over the phone or through the web. People are also using email, Twitter, Facebook and other tools to have a dialogue with their local lawmakers.

This is a new twist on an old idea: bringing citizens together to discuss issues -- or decide things.

Typically, you hear the phrase "New England-style town hall meeting." It's true that small towns in New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere holding town hall meetings more than 300 years ago. Every citizen got the chance to talk, debate and vote on issues.

Yet this idea goes back even longer.

It's inspired by the ancient democracy in Athens and the notion that every citizen should have a say. The Swiss towns of Glarus and Appenzell have been Langsgemeinde -- town hall meetings -- for 700 years.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate, from both parties, are embracing modern twists on this old idea. Technology may be improving it. But the notion behind it, that every citizen counts, is as strong as ever.

Rep. Hans Dunshee will be calling constituents in the 44th Legislative District on May 7 at 6PM to host a tele-town hall.

Rep. Tami Green will be hosting her own tele-town hall for the people of the 28th Legislative District on May 9 at 6PM.