MI-07 Republican Congressman recently posted a link to an article from The Hill on his Facebook page with the comment, “I’m proud to be on this list of the top 10 town hall holders in all of Congress.” It’s a remark so ridiculous that it strains the bounds of credulity. The article claims Walberg has done 66 town halls since January 1, 2015. However, Walberg hasn’t done one since May of last year.
What the article doesn’t say and what Walberg doesn’t mention is that most of his “town halls” are telephone town halls that are only accessible with a land line. These telephone town halls are completely controlled by Walberg and his staff. They screen the questions and there is literally no opportunity for the people on the call to interact with him. Walberg is also known for including private events at senior centers and with veterans in his list of “town halls”.
This past Friday, Walberg finally dared to venture into the public for what he called a “coffee hour”. It was held on a weekday (work day) morning in Hillsdale, Michigan, far off the beaten track for most residents of the 7th Congressional District. Still, there was an overflow crowd.
When participants arrived, they were met by no fewer than 11 law enforcement officials from the local police and sheriff departments. They were also confronted with this sign:
CONGRESSMAN TIM WALBERG EVENT RULES
- Questions must be submitted using a question card.
- Question card must be completed with required information.
- Completed question card should be returned to staff.
- For the safety and visibility of all attendees, no sign shall block the view of another attendee.
- Individuals who interrupt, disrupt, or interfere with the orderly conduct of the event will be asked to leave.
Thank you for your attendance at today’s event.
That last one was made more intimidating by the nearly dozen law enforcement officials monitoring the event. The questions were read, often paraphrased, by staff. Beverages including, ironically enough, coffee, were not allowed in the 60-person, standing room only room.
At one point during the event, Walberg cautioned the audience that their applause for specific questions would reduce the amount of time he had for questions. A short time later, he asked why he couldn’t get applause for a comment HE made. At the end, as participants grew frustrated by the one-way nature of the conversation, one person asked about women’s issues. And, with that, Walberg abruptly ended the event.
The event was little more than a telephone town hall conducted in public, completely controlled by Walberg and his staff with little to no interaction or dialog with the participants.
The week before this event, several women from the Indivisible group in Dexter (which is in the 7th District), went to Walberg’s office to put sticky notes on the front door with questions for him from 7th District constituents frustrated by his lack of access. They arrived two hours before the office opened to a dark and nearly empty parking lot. As soon as the women got out of their car, all of the office lights suddenly came on and several staff members came outside, greeting the women by name. In other words, Congressman Walberg is so terrified by the prospect of having to deal with his constituents who disagree with him that he has staff infiltrating private Facebook groups to thwart their activism. It’s an astonishing thought and a real tribute to the rising power of these grassroots, homegrown activist groups that have sprung up in the past four months.
This coming Saturday, Walberg is set to make another public appearance, this time at a men’s-only church breakfast in Dexter (ironically during International Women’s Month.) Local residents have asked to be allowed to participate but the church declined saying it’s for male members of their church only.
Not to be deterred, local organizers have persisted. They have found another church in Dexter that has opened their doors to a separate event following the men’s breakfast that the public – including WOMEN! – can attend:
The event will take place Saturday, March 11th starting at 10:30 a.m. at the St. James Episcopal Church (3279 Broad Street in Dexter.)
Congressman Walberg has been sent an invitation but, several days later, he has still failed to respond. I predict that, since he is unable to control every single aspect of the event, he will not participate.
Nevertheless, they will persist. If Congressman Walberg fails to show, residents in the 7th District will hold a peaceful rally along the road on the way into the men’s breakfast event so that Tim Walberg can see their views on everything from the Affordable Care Act to the interference in our elections and of our government by Russian agents and from immigration reform to the rolling back of environmental protections by the Bannon/Trump administration. If you’re in the 7th District, please join us. You can RSVP HERE.