A letter from a constituent:
Dear Ms. Falconer and Congresswoman Comstock,
Good evening. First, let me apologize for not responding to your previous attempt to contact me- it’s possible I accidentally deleted the email or that it ended up in a junk folder. Second, I understand the congressional staff is very busy and I do appreciate your effort to reach out to me. Third, I must commend the staff both in DC and at the Sterling, VA office—aside from the all too frequent typical answers of “not having spoken with the congresswoman about that issue” (almost any issue, it seems) and “not being the person in charge of her schedule”—they are always courteous, attentive, and professional.
I am incredibly disheartened to hear the congresswoman continues to decline the still-open invitation to this coming Friday’s citizen sponsored town hall. Although I am sure you are familiar with it, I’ve attached a the media release and statement regarding the event; furthermore I implore Ms. Comstock to please reconsider, as the constituents involved went to great lengths to cater to the congresswoman and ensure the civil and respectful exchange of information as desired and requested by the people of her district. I hope it is transparent and obvious that this continually rebuffed request for a Town Hall is about a mutual sense of responsibility and accountability and NOT the creation of a media spectacle. The oft cited excuse, that a town hall event such as this, seeks ‘media-clip worthy moments’ of yelling and disrespect is in direct opposition to the real and actual purpose of such an event. The idea is offensive and disrespectful to both her constituents and to the congresswoman.
I sincerely hope you truly understand (and can genuinely convey, with the sense of the urgency it deserves, to Ms. Comstock) that a town hall serves several important and necessary functions in our democracy. A town hall not only allows the constituency to hear from and understand their elected representative and vice-versa; but also, and perhaps more importantly, a town hall allows the constituents to come together to hear what matters and what is important to one another, particularly those with experiences different from our own. I feel that through these divisive, and frankly terrifying, moments in our national experience every community could use more empathy and understanding and Ms. Comstock has a unique ability through her position to foster those American values within district 10 and the entire nation. A telephone town hall, while a good tool, does not afford that aforementioned interaction among the participants that a real live town hall does and therefore cannot responsibly be used as a sole substitution.
I’ve previously addressed some of my concerns with the ‘tele town hall’ format but in addition to those mentioned above: the calls fail to offer the chance for ‘follow-up’ questions which are crucial to any constructive dialogue and exchange of information, the format gives the optics of a somewhat scripted and screened process (for example, the first questioner during Tuesday’s call), lacks a personal connection, and as with many of her released statements I don’t come away feeling any more informed or certain as to the congresswoman’s voting intentions or the stances she plans to take on important issues (relevant to note, I’m a new constituent and have never been registered with any political party).
Along with feedback regarding the tele-town hall I’d also like to address the congresswoman’s recently emailed “survey”. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but the survey was mildly insulting. As an example, I offer the question regarding immigration/border control. I certainly “agree” (as the only other options were to “disagree” or “other (with no room for typing an explanation)” that a safe border and good immigration policy is very important—the huge problem here is, as far as Congresswoman Comstock is concerned, I have no idea what that looks like or means and those details make a world of difference. No statistically or scientifically valid data can be assessed through loaded and double-barreled questions. As an excellent example of an analytically valid and statistically useful survey I would refer you to another party member’s most recent on-line constituent survey—VA General Assembly District 10 Delegate Randy Minchew.
I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the congresswoman, but request the meeting is allowed to be recorded to make available to all constituents. What is the congresswoman’s preferred group size for these interactions and what is the typical structure of the appointments? That being said the most important concerns to be addressed, and what should matter most here are not a single individual’s concerns but those that immediately affect the most people in the district. I have witnessed several people break down in tears describing what the loss of the Affordable Care Act would mean for themselves and their families and have learned important lessons and information from these encounters. I have personally handed out fliers (ACLU and #UnitedWeStand) to vulnerable populations in my own town explaining the rights of any individual during an encounter with the CPB and ICE —I walked away with tears welling and clutching my daughter just a little closer when I saw the hesitation and fear, then the wildfire spread of fliers once realized what they were, and the looks of immense gratitude and palpable fear in my fellow townspeople’s eyes, on several occasions.
I hope this doesn’t find you still at your desk at this late hour and please excuse my delayed response, I was hoping to reply earlier today. Thank you again for your time and attention. I very much look forward to receiving further information. I still hold out hope for a resolution to tomorrow’s scheduling conflict and for the congresswoman’s acceptance of the town hall meeting at which point I wouldn’t think setting up a further individual meeting would be necessary.
VA-10 District Resident