As polarization continues to escalate around issues of health care and immigration, lawmakers across the country are hosting town halls to discuss constituent concerns and criticisms.
Some lawmakers are refusing to host town halls, and are the subject of criticism, like Congressional Republican Rep. Dave Reichert. His district office, located in Issaquah, was the center of constituent protests. But, he said he’d prefer meetings with about eight people, rather than a town hall that hosted hundreds.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has been the subject of criticism as well, but for different reasons. He’s taken on a second job working for the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team. He argues that legal experts have give him the go-ahead to work full time as a state senator along with the federal job, since it’s only a temporary status. But that hasn’t stopped backlash from his constituents.
A parody Twitter account called “Where’s Doug” surfaced and sent out critical tweets of the lawmaker. Residents are even organizing an effort to recall the senator, according to a Bellingham Herald report. According to the report, critics highlight that he’s missed 75 percent of his committee meetings in Olympia and yet is still taking his full salary for the job. (He’s confirmed that, but says he’s turned away the daily stipend senators are offered of about $120.)
But on Tuesday, the senator’s office announced he would be hosting a 2-hour town hall meeting 10 a.m. Saturday at Meridian High School in Bellingham. His office issued guidelines: No large bags or umbrellas are allowed. No food or beverages are allowed. And notably, no signs, shouting or artificial sound makers are allowed. The office also emphasized that the topics of the meeting are to be fixed on state issues.
“This is a great opportunity for the people of Whatcom County to find out what’s happening in Olympia, and offer their thoughts about the direction of state government,” Ericksen said in a statement.
Some of his critics have responded, apparently warmly. The parody Twitter account referenced the meeting in a Tuesday afternoon Tweet.
— Where's Doug? (@wheresdoug42) February 28, 2017