We had a disappointing visit to Representative Ted Budd‘s office today.

About fifty constituents met up at the Advance office, coordinated by the NAACP.  We filled the Representative’s conference room to share our questions and concerns.  Mr. Budd is in Washington, D.C. since the House is in session, therefore he was unavailable to hear directly from us.  His district director Todd Poole welcomed us, and listened as four speakers outlined specific issues related primarily to voting rights, immigration & deportations, and the Affordable Care Act.  Additional comments were made and questions raised by other citizens present.

Mr. Poole’s consistent response was that he could make no comments on Mr. Budd’s policy positions, since we were meeting at a constituent services office, and policy is set at the D.C. office.  Attendees repeatedly asked for clarification about the Representative’s positions, and we were repeatedly told that since this was a constituent services office, we could not be told what Representative Budd thinks about any policy issues.  If we wanted to discuss policy, we would have to do so at the D.C. office.  One of the citizens present tried to point out that since we were constituents asking to clarify and confirm where our Congressional Representative stands on issues of concern to us, simply sharing and discussing these positions with us was in fact constituent services.

Instead, Mr. Poole suggested that if he discussed policy issues at this “taxpayer-funded constituent services office,” it would be violating the law since no campaigning is permitted at this venue.  It is unclear why Mr. Poole thought our questions had anything at all to do with campaigning.  It is unclear why telling constituents where the Congressman stands would be antithetical to constituent services.

Mr. Budd chose not to hold any Town Hall meetings with constituents during last week’s Congressional recess opportunity to spend time in home districts.  He explained this decision to the Davie county newspaper The Dispatch:

“Budd said he has received requests from constituents for town halls, but said he wanted health care to be his focus this week.  Budd said his goal in interacting with the 13th district is ‘to be engaged, but we don’t want theatrics at the same time.  So for those who are going beyond complaining and are asking for actual meetings, we’re granting those.'”  (02.23.2017)

Mr. Poole said during today’s discussion that so-called ‘telephone town halls’ are the Congressman’s preferred option over in-person Town Hall meetings.  Although the citizens gathered tried to explain that for constituents an in-person Town Hall meeting is more satisfactory, we were told that they prefer ‘telephone town halls.’  Mr. Poole acknowledged that their publicity for the first event was not ideal since they are new in the office and are on a learning curve.  He pledged to do more than advertise in one local newspaper next time, to post on the Congressman’s website, and to telephone citizens the night before to alert them to the call.  It is unclear how they will determine which citizens to call.  It is understandable that they are on a learning curve with this process.  (Guidance for ‘telephone town halls‘ seems to be a work in progress.)

Several of us thanked Mr. Poole afterward for meeting and speaking with us, and requested again that they post Mr. Budd’s position statements on his website.  He said yes, they would, and they are developing their plans for sharing more information on the website.  When asked about when there was a possibility that the Congressman would hold an in-person Town Hall meeting, he looked me directly in the eye and replied, “Never.”

So, we know where we stand.