Town Hall Office Hours

Reader Elmer sends the Corning Leader article [pdf] announcing Randy Kuhl's Town Hall Office Hours.  Kuhl has changed the format of his town hall appearances to private meetings with constituents.  In the press release announcing the new set of meetings, Kuhl says that the reason for the change was that his office received complaints that the meetings were "too impersonal" and constituents felt that they "couldn't voice their opinions".

As anyone who's been paying attention knows, the real reason that Kuhl changed the meeting format was that some of the meetings had turned into raucous confrontations between Kuhl and dissatisfied constituents.   Kuhl had tried the technique of calling the meetings "listening opportunities" where he refused to answer questions from constituents, but that went over poorly.   So now meetings with Kuhl are by appointment only.

The Monroe County meetings I attended last year were packed.  If the meetings attract the same number of constituents this year, there's no chance that Kuhl will be able to meet with even a fraction of those who want to talk to him.  The Massa campaign has already alleged that the meetings are for core constituents only, but it really doesn't matter who Kuhl talks with for 5 or 10 minutes.  Kuhl's format change has transformed these meetings into a non-event.

I imagine the same groups who demonstrated inside the meetings last year will demonstrate outside this year, and my guess is that they'll still get some media time in the Rochester market, so I don't see how this change helps Kuhl politically. My experience was that a good number of constituents who showed up at these meetings with an honest interest in what Kuhl had to say, and no matter what you thought of Kuhl's positions, his willingness to answer some pretty tough questions would probably have garnered a vote or two among those in attendance.


Randy always promoted himself as being a major proponent of open government. As we see, this has ended. Instead, he will now make sure that his "meetings" are out of the public view and he will not have the same opportunity to be accosted by crowds, and being put on tape for the media.

Even for people that didn't agree with him, they still gave him respect for putting on the meetings and being willing to stand in the line of fire.

Apparantly, Kuhl, can't take it anymore and its too annoying for him. This Congressional Seat wasn't the cake walk he thought it would be where he thought he could just visit all the towns, put out a few press releases, get money for a few biketrails and fire stations, and then go on vacation to florida or whereever he vacations for the rest of the year.

If the Democrats had their act together, they would protest outside every one of the "town hall meetings", allowing for the media to report that Randy Kuhl USED to have open meetings, but now they are closed and invitation only. The move will only backfire. I just don't get it.

Now Massa will have open meetings, and he will openly question, what Kuhl is hiding from.

I think you're right that Kuhl made a mistake here. He'd be better off engaging critics in a civil manner, which he did pretty well.

As for Democrats having their act together -- in Monroe County, they don't. If they did have their act together, they'd be trying to register new voters, planning canvasses, etc. MCDC is just an ineffective big-city machine, happy to get its guaranteed city votes and hold on to its city sinecures, but unable to do anything that requires work or risk. So there's very little the party will do for Massa in Monroe County.

I think Randy would treat his critics in a "civil way" if all of them returned the favor.

I agree that he could have had more civil questions. But a politician gets some respect by answering unpleasant critics civilly, and he's missing that opportunity here.

I think uncivil questions are a perfect foil for a skilled politician.

My take on this is that they were afraid of a "Macaca moment" at one of these town halls -- some kind of gaffe that could hurt his campaign. It's a calculated decision: he loses the goodwill he would gain from continuing to have public town halls and he loses the opportunity to look calm and reasonable in the face of vocal opposition, but he gains the safety of not having to meet his critics in a venue that could be taped.

Heck - even Bill Clinton has been loosing his cool when questioned by pro-Obama activists. Some protesters have no clue how to ask a question politely.

Yeah, and a lot of people have lost a lot of respect for Clinton recently.