Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018
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Latta needs to show up


U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) has been phoning it in.

Instead of hosting the traditional town hall meetings with constituents during breaks in the legislative schedule in Washington, Mr. Latta has been using unadvertised telephone conference calls with some constituents instead.



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Mr. Latta argues that a telephone conference call allows him to reach many more constituents than a typical live town hall. Maybe, but it doesn’t really allow for constituents to reach him.

He has said that some constituents can be “too intimidated” by live town hall meetings. 

Baloney. It seems more likely that Mr. Latta is intimidated by them.

Representation is personal. It is eye-to-eye and face-to-face, as Mr. Latta’s father Del made so clear.

Elected members of Congress, especially those in the people’s House, need to be able to stand in a room and face the people they represent. 

Faceless telephone conference calls are not representation.

Other members of the northwest Ohio delegation, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) have hosted live town hall meetings this spring. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) has met in-person with constituents at events around the state. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) also has avoided town hall meetings, but ended up in a pair of impromptu conversations with critics and other constituents at live events in the district recently.

Mr. Latta’s constituents deserve a chance to speak to him face-to-face, discuss the issues of the day, and share their opinions — even if those opinions differ from the congressman’s.

Some legislators canceled or skipped town hall meetings this year because a few of their colleagues encountered rude or hostile questioners at such gatherings in other districts. That’s unfortunate, but it comes with the job. Congressmen have a right to demand that town hall participants be civil and not disruptive, but they shouldn’t shirk their responsibilities because some people have been disrespectful.

Beyond listening, town hall sessions are a good opportunity for legislators to show leadership. They can explain their thinking and maybe persuade a critic. It’s a chance to help constituents understand the sometimes confusing workings of the federal government.

Telephone conference calls don’t cut it for that. 

Mr. Latta should schedule live town hall meetings and show up — not just his voice: all of him.

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