Discourse is important, but civil discourse is more productive

Rep. Tom Reed held Town Hall Meetings on May 6, one was in the Chautauqua Town of Busti.  The Jamestown Post-Journal’s article about the event, included:

“Reed was met with a wall of opposition — and at times shouts and boos — during an hour-long town hall meeting with constituents at the Busti Fire Department.”


“He (Reed) noted the meetings are a good way to interact directly with his constituents, even if some disagree with his positions. ‘There was a lot of good dialogue,’ Reed told reporters Saturday.”

Sounds like the Town Halls that I’ve attended this year.

The Busti Town Board didn’t seem to agree with Reed that the meeting had good dialogue. At their Monday, May 15 Town Board meeting, the Supervisor described the meeting as a ruckus and was embarrassed by the way the crowd acted. He said, It was awfulWe don’t treat our people this way … and (Reed) took a pounding. The Town Board decided to write and send an apology to Rep. Reed. Follow this link to see the Post Standard article about this meeting.  

Here is the Post Journal editorial about the Town Hall and the Busti Board’s apology:

We are sure there are many who were in the audience of U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s recent town hall meeting in Busti who were just as disappointed as Busti Town Supervisor Jesse Robbins was at the behavior of some of those in attendance.

Robbins, Busti supervisor, and the Busti Town Board are sending a letter to Reed apologizing for the conduct of some in the audience on May 6. By all accounts, the meeting was loud. There were many raised voices. Listening to Reed attempt to answer questions about both health care policy and his voting record was cringeworthy. Often, Reed was unable to string more than a handful of words together before he was drowned out by yelling from the audience. Some audience members likely would have done better discussing their issues with Reed or someone from Reed’s office rather than yelling, screaming and carrying on in a room full of people.

While we understand why Robbins wanted to apologize, there is no reason for the town to do so. The town didn’t encourage some people to yell and scream just as it didn’t encourage others to make their case in a calm, reasoned tone.

It is obvious from audio recordings of the town hall meeting that there are many in the 23rd Congressional District who are unhappy with their government right now. Americans have the right and duty to voice their displeasure. Our government is at its best when those on opposite sides of an issue have a vigorous debate before arriving at a decision. We applaud those on either side of the political aisle who showed an ability to make a point without yelling, screaming or interrupting others.

Chautauqua County has played host to two standing-room-only town hall meetings this year. After so many years of apathy toward politics, it is a breath of fresh air to see so many people engaging with their federal representative on matters important to them. We hope people continue to be this engaged.

Discourse is important, but civil discourse is more productive.

Rep. Reed’s Town Hall meetings in Trumansburg, Geneva, Bradford, and Erin are scheduled for next Saturday, June 3. Let’s keep in mind that “Our government is at its best when those on opposite sides of an issue have a vigorous debate”. In debates, all sides need to be heard.

Discourse is important, but Civil discourse is productive.


About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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3 Responses to Discourse is important, but civil discourse is more productive

  1. pystew says:

    Unfortunately Jesse Robbins left out the part where he called those opposed to Reed as low down dirty people and a few other derogatory words and that if you don’t reside in Busti, you aren’t welcome to those Town Hall meetings. Also it was never reported by the Post-Journal that the Tea Party portion of the audience were using foul language and telling the ‘dirty liberals’ that they belong in North Korea.

    I don’t know where Robbins gets his information but if you are a constituent and reside in the NY 23rd you can attend any and ALL the Town Hall meetings if you so desire. We have no control over where Reed schedules his TH meetings, though in the last 3 months Busti, which is a mostly Republican area has had 2 meetings in that time span. Reed is well known to hold his meetings in Republican strongholds and very small, out of the way venues usually that aren’t so handicapped accessible nor for those that are deaf, seating with a clear sight line is hard for people who read lips. I tend to believe it’s done in this fashion to dissuade constituents from attending.

    Reed doesn’t deserve an apology, the people who Town of Busti Supervisor Robbins slighted deserve a public apology from that elected official.—by Cath Kestler


  2. pystew says:

    You can read what Busti Supervisor Jesse Robbins, and other Town Board members, said about those at the Town Hall by following the second link.


  3. whungerford says:

    It isn’t easy to keep quiet when presented with “alternate facts.” A roar from a big crowd is inevitable. Ann Sullivan suggested the audience quietly shake their heads in disbelief. Is there a better strategy that works when the crowd is large, or when it is small? Have the agree/disagree signs proved effective?


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