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Progressive constituents say these GOP Congressmen are avoiding them

Feb 21, 2017

Across the country, members of Congress have been holding town halls and some have gotten a little heated.

Here in Michigan, constituents of Republican Congressmen Dave Trott (R-Birmingham), Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) are calling on their representatives to hold in-person town halls.

Three constituents of those elected officials joined Stateside to discuss the challenges they've faced while seeking audiences with their respective congressmen.

Patrick Mayer, member of Lenawee Indivisible and assistant professor of philosophy at Siena Heights University, said Congressman Walberg has offered video town halls for his constituents. Many of them, however, were offered on short notice.

His concern is that town halls are not recorded and that no one from the press is allowed to attend.

"Our group isn't all that interested in having the kind of town hall where we're yelling at the representative," Mayer said. "The main reason we're interested in having the press there is so that if Representative Walberg tells us something, there's an objective third party who we can refer to and say, 'Look, remember he told us he would do this thing, and now he's not doing it?' Or if he does do it, we can say, 'Great job, remember when told us you would do that and now you followed through?' So for us, the press isn't so much about recording a show, but recording what he tells us."

This isn't the first time Walberg has been accused of hiding from his constituents or the media. 

Elsewhere, Lois Robins, an 87-year-old retiree from Oxford and a member of the North Oakland Indivisible Team, said the process of contacting elected officials, like her Congressman Mike Bishop, is new to her. The result of the recent presidential election inspired her to get involved.

"I've never done this before in my life," Robins said. "I wasn't even sure who my congress people were. This election is unlike anything I've ever seen in all my years and I just realized I could not keep floating around in my apolitical bubble."

Her concerns range from what she described as "lies from the White House" to attacks on the media, President Donald Trump's cabinet choices, and the Supreme Court. She said she tries to contact Rep. Bishop's staff to ask about upcoming in-person events and is told that "nothing is scheduled."

Julia Galliker, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, also voiced her frustration with her Rep. Dave Trott.

Galliker, along with other members of the the Michigan People's Campaign, took her message straight to Trott's front door. She was part of the more than 100 people who showed up at Trott's office in Troy. According to Galliker, Trott hasn't held an in-person town hall meeting since April 9, 2015.

Critics say groups like Galliker's are trying to make a scene to prove a point. Galliker said it's more than that. 

"This is not a matter of theatrics or stunts," she said. "This is an effort to try to have civil discourse with our elected officials."

Michigan Radio reached out to all three congressmen for comment on this story. You can read the responses from their offices here.

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