‘Telehall’ Meetings Let Representatives Minimize Disruptions

Representatives from Tennessee’s Congressional delegation are facing criticism for scheduling town hall meetings with thousands of constituents via telephone during the August recess.

But a professor at Vanderbilt says it’s a way to tamp down on disruption to live events by opponents of healthcare overhaul.

The battle over proposed healthcare changes has turned “question and answer” forums with local representatives into screaming matches between opponents and supporters of healthcare overhaul. Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen faced such a crowd of nearly a thousand at his town hall meeting on Saturday.

Now some House Representatives are planning to host their meetings via telephone. Constituents must register to participate in what’s being called a “telehall.”

Vanderbilt Political Scientist Bruce Oppenheimer says that gives representatives a means of controlling potential disruptions.

“That doesn’t mean that obviously people can’t show up and ask questions which are fairly hostile questions, but it means that the ability to shout someone down will be a little more limited.”

Currently Tennessee Democrats Bart Gordon and John Tanner are taking criticism for booking teleconferences, but East Tennessee Republican Phil Roe is scheduling a similar event.

Jacqueline Fellows contributed to this report.

EXTRA:

Pall Mall Democrat Lincoln Davis is out of the country, but his website says he’ll schedule an “unscripted” town hall when he returns August 14th.

Republican Marsha Blackburn is working to arrange some type of meeting with constituents as soon as this week.

Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper has no healthcare town hall booked, but is planning on speaking to some local civic groups.

Republican John Duncan currently has no events lined up, while Zach Wamp has several gubernatorial stops scheduled.

Gordon’s events are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on August 21.

Updated from Congressman Bart Gordon:

August 21: Two Telephone Town Halls – one at 11 a.m. CDT and another at 5:30 p.m. CDT (to register, visit or call 615-896-1986).

August 24: Face-to-Face office hours, starting at 9:00 a.m. CDT, at the Patterson Park Community Center (521 Mercury Blvd., Murfreesboro, 37130).

August 24: Town Hall meeting, moderated by the Daily News Journal, at 7:00 p.m. CDT in Murfreesboro (location, to be determined).

August 25: Face-to-Face office hours, starting at 9:00 a.m. CDT, at the Putnam County Courthouse (300 E. Spring St., Cookeville, 38501).

August 26: Face-to-Face office hours, starting at 9:00 a.m. CDT, at the Sumner County Courthouse (100 Public Sq., Room B-100, Gallatin, 37066).

August 26: Town Hall meeting, moderated by Mike Towle of The News-Examiner at 7:00 p.m. CDT in Gallatin (location, to be determined).

Tanner’s “telehall” meetings are set for August 28 at 2 p.m. and August 31 at 6 p.m.

Roe has six live townhalls booked in addition to participating in a telephone discussion with AARP August 27th.

Republican Senator Bob Corker will address a meeting of the Memphis Rotary Club, Tuesday, August 11th at 12:00 pm.

Professor Oppenheimer notes a secondary benefit of ‘telehall’ events is more constituents may be able to participate than at an in-person town hall.

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