Editorial: Hultgren, league prove town halls can be effective

It took quite a bit of prodding and cajoling, but in the end, Congressman Randy Hultgren did the right thing Tuesday. He met in person with a large group of constituents.

It wasn't a pro-Hultgren crowd, as Daily Herald staff writer Jim Fuller reported. But the more than 700 people in the audience got what they sought - their Republican congressmen in person answering questions.

Now, some have complained he didn't answer their questions. And others say some members of the audience were rude. But we say the fact the so-called town hall was held at all is reason for applause.

This year, Republican members of Congress are facing the heat when they choose - or choose not - to partake in this form of give and take. In many instances, Democrats are loading up the seats with disgruntled voters wanting answers about President Trump and how their congressmen is voting or will vote on issues of concern. It's reminiscent of similar town halls held in 2009-10 by Democratic members of Congress being held accountable by upstart Tea Party Republicans in the early days of President Obama's administration.

Many see that parallel and wonder if the 2018 elections will mirror, in reverse, 2010 when Democrats suffered at the polls.

But an election a year or more away is no reason for duly elected representatives to shun their constituents by refusing to see them - especially those who disagree - in person. Even Hultgren agrees, as he said at the town hall at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles:

"We disagree on a lot of things. They've changed my way of thinking on some things. Democracy is messy. It's give and take. We're not going to agree on 100 percent of things. But if we're willing to listen and learn, good things are going to happen."

That's a message all suburban congressmen should heed. Unfortunately, one is adamant about not holding in-person town halls, instead favoring telephone town halls and small groups.

"Participating in big circuses is not productive," Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton said earlier this year.

We disagree - and give kudos to Hultgren and the League of Women Voters for proving it can be done.

It might be "messy" as Hultgren described - and the audience might need to be reined in as they were in St. Charles - but by working together and setting some ground rules, Hultgren and the League made it happen. Roskam should do the same.

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