U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-MI-7, hosted an hour-long town hall at Hillsdale City Hall Friday morning, with specific rules mandating that constituents submit questions to Walberg’s staff in writing in order to be considered.
Several people from the crowd of roughly 100 voiced their disappointment with the format.
“I find it curious that they call these town halls,” said Susan Fecteau of Dexter. “If we’re not allowed to agree or disagree, or clap, or engage in any way back-an-forth, that’s not a town hall, that’s not a discussion. That’s a speech.”
Attendants were not able to respond to Walberg’s answers to most questions.
“I think it’s a blockade against disagreement,” Fecteau said. “They want to talk about what they want to talk about.”
A moderator was given a pile of written questions and maintained that he was not screening the cards.
Before the town hall event began, Walberg said he hoped it would be an opportunity to begin the work of uniting a divided constituency. He lauded his record for holding town halls, and blamed the congressional calendar for not being able to address the public in his home district since the New Year.
“Having a schedule now for the first 100 days that keeps us in Washington for far greater time periods has been a bit frustrating,” Walberg said.
Walberg said he hoped to begin uniting the crowd by laying out the facts.
“I’m going to tell the truth,” Walberg said. “On the basis of the facts that they have they can make their opinions. I don’t expect to change everybody’s mind or satisfy them.”
Several in the crowd were sporting so-called “pussy hats” that were popularized during the women’s marches that took place earlier this year. Also present were several anti-Russia signs. There was not any visible support for Republicans or President Trump.
There were only a few questions in which Walberg’s answer earned the approval of the crowd.
The moderator read a question from Sandra George, of Jonesville: “What are you doing to end civil asset forfeiture? No one should lose property if not convicted of a crime.”
Walberg mentioned a failed piece of legislation he authored last year to end the process of civil asset forfeiture.
“My concern is citizens that who have not been adjudicated to even be guilty, or been charged have had their cars, their resources, their moneybags (seized),” Walberg said. “I am confident that once we’re able to explain this to president Trump and his administration, and maybe do a few tweaks with it, we can get that thing moving again.”
More frequent were the moments that several people in the crowd were not pleased with the congressman’s response.
Walberg was booed when he said, “There is no legal requirement (for the president) to give his tax returns.”
The crowd applauded nearly every instance after the moderator read a question. After taking a question on whether a voucher program for education might give unfair advantages to private schools, the crowd applauded, which Walberg critiqued before giving his response.
“The more clapping that goes on the less time we have to answer questions,” Walberg said. "I just make that as a point.”
“The bottom line is, we are committed to fostering quality education,” Walberg said. “I believe that takes place at the state and local level.... There is not one reference in the U.S. Constitution to our responsibility for or against education in any way, shape or form.”
At the end of the hour, Walberg left without answering calls from the crowd asking when he would host his next town hall.