The town hall has a long history in the political landscape of United States' history. For generations, it was the most efficient method of reporting information and receiving feed back from constituents. In the modern age, elected and prospective government officials have various outlets of communication and the town hall is no longer the most efficient method of political connection. Yet in order to reach out to citizens without regular internet access, Raleigh City Councilor Corey Branch decided to offer his district the opportunity for intra-personal connection in the town hall format.
Councilor Branch hosted two meetings in one week at different locations within District C, Chavis Park and Barwell Community Center. He invited other government officials and employees including Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall, a representative of the Parks and Rec, and local police officers. Then, he invited 90, 000 Raleigh citizens who live in District C. Approximately, 115 showed up.
The strength of the town hall format is the opportunity for citizens to speak directly to elected officials and government employees regarding their concerns, questions, and at times, emotions. With skilled moderation from Councilor Branch, insights from city officials, and passionate input from residents, the town hall at Chavis Park produced a lively and valuable discussion about various city and district issues including:
- Redevelopment plans for Chavis Park
- Current state of community centers that do not have Wi-Fi, are not air-conditioned, and have tiled gym floors
- Affordable verses low-income housing, gentrification
- Residential density
- Communication between the city and residents
- Parks and Rec access for children with special needs
- Economic development
- Public transportation
It is not widely understood that local, not national, politics impacts the daily life of citizens most directly. The places our children play, the demographics of our neighborhoods, the economic opportunities available, and the way we move within our city affect the quality of our lives. Yet, our city and county politics are often overshadowed by the national ideological issues that dominate our headlines and social media. Councilor Branch recognized that the voices of the common citizen and elected officials can be most powerful on a Tuesday night in an activity room of a community center. He provided Raleigh with an opportunity to participate in the political process directly; yet, the great majority of residents were absent. They missed face time with government officials, conversation with neighbors, and a chance to impact our city.
With all the current demands for our political energy, it is difficult to know where to focus. Everyone seems to be searching for their niche in this new age of political activism. Yet, it became clear during Councilor Branch's town hall that this ancient tradition is a relevant answer to the urgent desire for modern political connectivity and accountability.
DON'T STRESS! AFAR will be keeping you informed of town hall meetings with local, state, and national government officials. The next meeting will be a continuation of the City of Raleigh sponsored Community Conversations. These meetings facilitate open dialogue between citizens and police officers. There will meetings in each District (complete schedule posted here). Check this video of Mayor McFarlane inviting you to join the District C meeting scheduled for Monday February 13th.