It is disappointing that both of our North Carolina Senators do not seem interested in meeting with us here at home during this ‘district work period’ typically set aside for constituent access at local home offices.

Senator Richard Burr is doing senatorial work overseas.  However, it would be great if at this time of unprecedented anxiety about the current administration, our senior senator would also take advantage of a chance to talk to his voters.  Although Senator Burr has stated that he will not run again in 2022, it is still his job to help us understand his actions on our behalf, such as supporting each one of the president’s controversial cabinet picks, accepting a white nationalist‘s appointment to the Principals’ Committee of the National Security Council, and tolerating juvenile attempts by the executive to discredit and bully members of the judicial branch and media.  We would like to understand why he seems to agree with the idea that repealing the Affordable Care Act without a viable replacement in sight makes any sense for either the hospitals of our state, or for the health care consumers who lack the privilege of access to the Congressional health plan.  While we appreciate Senator Burr’s important work with the Intelligence Committee, we would also appreciate a chance to talk things over, and hear him in person.  Burr’s website includes a scheduling request page where we can ask to meet.  Here’s hoping we get the chance soon.

Wishes that Senator Burr would make himself available for public conversations have taken surprising forms: some wrote in chalk “Time to Town Hall” on the sidewalk outside the Senator’s Winston-Salem office, others scheduled ‘have a heart’ Valentine’s Day rallies and so-called mock town halls without him, and still others have taken out a “Lost” ad in the Raleigh News & Observer to make a point that they cannot locate the Senator.  All of this comes on the heels of a ‘gofundme’ campaign to raise as much as Senator Burr accepted in contributions from Betsy DeVos’ family ahead of her nomination to be Secretary of Education.

Senator Thom Tillis’ absence of a town hall this week is even more disappointing than Burr’s.  This week Senator Tillis chose to visit the U.S.-Mexico border, and tour the Rio Grande Valley with several other lawmakers at Anzalduas Park near Mission, Texas, rather than come home to speak with and hear from constituents.  The decision to tour Texas instead of North Carolina is confusing, since Tillis’ correspondence about town halls has included the concern that “in person town halls generally require a commitment several weeks in advance – a commitment my office is not prepared to make given the full schedule of the Senate and the duties attendant to service there.”  Tillis’ website explains that “due to Senate business we are unable to schedule more than a few weeks in advance. In instances where a meeting with the Senator is not able to be scheduled, we will do our best to offer constituents the chance to meet with a member of his staff.”  His press statement included the comment: “As of late, it has become apparent that some individuals who are not really interested in meaningful dialogue attend town halls just to create disruptions and media spectacles.”  Some constituents made their dissatisfaction clear by ‘going ahead’ without him, in a so-called mock town hall meeting.  According to Tillis’ staff, telephone town halls held by the Senator are more effective than in-person meetings: “In a large state like North Carolina with 10 million residents spread across 100 counties, telephone town halls are an effective way to reach thousands of constituents at a moment’s notice and have a deep, substantive conversation about policy issues and current events.”  We have many of the same questions for Senator Tillis, about cabinet appointments, national security, the 33% reduction in uninsured North Carolinians under the Affordable Care Act, the rise of divisive voices in the White House, and more.  We are not sure when his next planned telephone town hall is scheduled, since there is no news about any scheduled sessions on the Senator’s website.