THE PEOPLE’S TOWN HALL: Two Districts Show What Democracy Looks Like

Two Districts Show What Democracy Looks Like

Asbury Park, NJ, 7/14/17

Before what was called “The People’s Town Hall” began, people from
Congressional Districts 4 and 6 chanted, “This is what democracy looks like”
in preparation of the joint meeting with Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Congressman Pallone, who represents District 6, accepted the invitation of
constituents from his own district and from neighboring District 4 to field
questions in a town hall meeting on Friday, July 14. Congressman Chris
Smith, who represents District 4, has not held a town hall meeting in 24 years.
Questions from the audience of approximately 180 people included topics on
the environment, healthcare, immigration, voting rights, jobs and the
economy, as well as concerns about President Donald Trump. Congressman
Pallone acknowledged his own concerns about the current government,
suggesting that if people want to send a message to Capitol Hill, they should
vote for Democrats in the 2017 state elections, from Phil Murphy at the top of
the ticket through all the local representatives.
Although a few audience members had signs wishing Congressman Pallone
was their representative, none of the audience questions referred directly to
Congressman Smith. As event organizer Jennifer Fluharty stated in her
opening comments, the purpose of this event was to have constituents’
concerns about current political events addressed, not to discuss
Congressman Smith. “I don’t want to talk about the Congressman who isn’t
here because tonight is not about him,” she remarked. “It’s about all of you.”
Congressman Smith, whom event organizers said did not respond to their
invitation, recently wrote an Asbury Park Press editorial dated May 22 about
his views on his constituents. He wrote that some activists shouted
“obscenities” at his staff and that he has received rude emails and phone
messages. In the editorial, he noted that “Americans cherish dialogue and
respect,” yet he did not address why he has not held a town hall meeting for
nearly a quarter of a century.
Asked at the conclusion of the event what she felt had been gained by the
evening’s activities, Fluharty stated in an email, “I’m proud that I was able to
facilitate this conversation for my friends and neighbors in the 4th district as
well as our 6th district counterparts. Each time we gather and further the ideals
of democracy through dialogue, we show that Smith’s excuses for the
continued negligence are nothing but a baseless smokescreen. At some point
we’re all going to have to stop expecting Chris Smith to actually do his job
and show up for us, and start working on replacing him instead.”

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