By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Mr. Valadao, let's have a good old-fashioned Town Hall meeting, and no waiting in long lines

As a former elected official, I relished any opportunity to speak with constituents – whether it was knocking on doors or pontificating from my perch on the city council dais where I served as mayor for eight years.

I always figured it was part of the job, and I enjoyed it immensely. Most constituent interaction was pleasant and welcome. Oh yes, there were always gadflies who – during meetings – behaved as if it were their primary purpose in life to make their elected representatives lives miserable. That was part of the job too.

It’s simply a fact of life. You see it at every level of elected service – from those who serve at the national level to the lowly councilmember simply trying to keep the water flowing and the garbage picked up on a regular basis.

Elected representatives’ primary responsibilities include representing their constituents and talking to them on a regular basis, either through correspondence, phone calls, email or through democracy’s most traditional form of communication: The town hall.

Sadly, our local representative, David Valadao, seems to have forgotten these basic tenants of democracy. He refuses to hold a town hall – as do sadly most of his colleagues, including our congressional neighbor in Tulare County, Devin Nunes.  

I can certainly understand the reluctance of some representatives considering that those few Republicans who have conducted town halls – and I really mean few –  have been relentlessly pummeled by their constituents – and in most cases, the dialogue has been ugly and downright divisive.

Unfortunately, angry constituents – like a congressman's health care – come with the job.

Take New Jersey Representative Tom MacArthur for example – please! MacArthur is one of the primary authors of the American Health Care Act – which unfortunately adopted the unfortunate moniker “Trumpcare.” It was MacArthur’s amendment that will allow states to apply for waivers that will exempt them from the pre-existing conditions mandate, currently an important part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

He was one of the few Republicans to bravely hold a town hall meeting. His angry New Jersey constituents – lots of them – didn’t let up on him for nearly five hours – and it was all broadcast on CSPAN – unedited. I watched for about an hour and didn’t see one person offer support for the congressman. His constituents were verbal, loud, and mad – and they didn’t let up on him.

But, I can understand the anger. Many are angry about health care and President Trump, and for all those angry voters – lots of them – America is on a dangerous, divisive course.

Valadao’s own earlier response – on March 6 – was to speak to constituents one at a time, requiring residents to dutifully wait in line for a mere 10 precious minutes of the congressman’s valuable time. It seems that a constituent sharing his or her concerns was relegated to a first come, first served basis.

Valadao, in a press release, referred to the 10-minute meetings in the following sense: “This exciting, new event will allow constituents to meet one-on-one with Congressman David Valadao to discuss legislative issues at the federal level.”

Exciting? Yeah, I guess so, if your idea of a fun time is waiting in line to talk to a congressman.

He and his staff called this “exciting” assault on the public’s conscience his “Hometown Huddle.” His staff continued: “The Hometown Huddle is just a new way to reach out to his constituents in ways that work for them.”

Yes, waiting in line for an hour or more for 10 minutes of the congressman’s expertise, hardly “works for me,” or any other constituent.

But it doesn’t work for those constituents who want answers. The Leader, which had previously impressed with Valadao’s critical view of Trump during the 2016 campaign, is disappointed that he has avoided the town hall format. We were encouraged by his refusal last year to support Trump, differing with him on such issues as immigration.

All that aside, Valadao needs to summon the political courage and meet with his constituents in a town hall setting. While he may face some anger in Kings County, we’re sure he’ll also receive support and maybe a renewed respect.