EDITORIAL: Are town hall meetings the best?

One has to wonder if town hall meetings are the best way for officials to interact with their constituents?

On the surface, Coun. Scott Anderson’s concept of town hall meetings in Vernon appears to have a lot of merit.

“We’ve done a great job of pushing information out to the public but we lack a mechanism to get input from the public,” he said.

“It gives citizens a voice. It makes us (council) a sounding board for citizens.”

And given low voter turnouts during elections and the general apathy and cynicism towards political activities, anything that encourages residents to get more active in their community should be considered.

However, one has to wonder if town hall meetings are the best way for officials to interact with their constituents?

Thanks to modern technology, virtually every council member can be reached on a cell phone (their numbers are posted on the city website) and each of them has an e-mail address, which allows for instantaneous contact.

The City of Vernon also has Facebook and Twitter accounts and increasingly, residents of all ages are using social media to provide their thoughts.

Obviously nothing beats one-to-one contact, and most council members spend considerable time individually meeting with residents to discuss a range of concerns.

The challenge with town hall meetings is drawing people away from their busy lives, and such sessions can also easily become dominated by a resident or a group of citizens who have a special interest.

Anderson deserves praise for wanting to improve communications between city hall and the public, and we encourage his colleagues to support the effort.

But there may be a variety of opportunities that allow for that relationship to unfold.