Fred Logan: Spread the news for town hall meetings!

by Fred Logan 

Spread the news!  During an April 12th Meet the Candidates forum, District 9 Pittsburgh city council candidate Khari Mosley said if elected, he will convene periodic community meetings in the district.

At a Meet and Greet three days later, District 10 Allegheny County councilman Dewitt Walton, said, among many other things, if he is reelected to office, he will hold “two town hall meetings” each year at “Homewood Library.”

Both were replying to requests from community residents.

We must demand similar commitments from all Black candidates running for city council, the school board, state house or county council to hold town hall meetings in the respective political district they are running to represent. 

And we must demand a similar commitment from local Black elected officials now in office, that is from members of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition, the PBEOC.

Town hall meetings sponsored by elected officials in their respective districts are extremely important events for community residents and institutions to assemble and also get to know each other, in neighborhoods like 2023 Homewood with large transient populations this is especially important.

At such meetings elected official and community residents exchange information and opinions on important issues downtown at city hall and in the community. Properly organized, such meetings can help to significantly increase the political influence and clout of elected officials and of the community.

Also, town hall meetings, among other things, make our elected officials more accessible to the community and more accountable to the community. Both of these are of the utmost importance to the community.

But that has been conspicuously absent in Pittsburgh Black elected politics over the years. Look in Pittsburgh’s largely-Black city council, school board, Allegheny County council, and Pennsylvania state house districts.

How many in-district, public meetings have been held in each of them over the past decade?

We all know by countless past examples that a community meeting can be a disaster. They turn you off just like they have turned off the community. So, right now, in the middle of Campaign 2023 we must struggle even harder to change that.

Here are some key demands we must make. We must demand that our elected officials set on a permanent basis the annual date, time and place for their respective meetings. That allows all parties involved to prepare. We must reject last minute, poorly organized town hall meetings.

Equally important the community at large is obligated to do its homework and come prepared to a worthwhile important contribution.   For example, at the April 15 Meet and Greet, cited above, a Black woman from the East Hills neighborhood raised some very important issues about affordable housing in East Hills. She was well prepared and that made a very important contribution to the Meet and Greet dialogue.

The type of town hall meetings we are must demanding do not in any way relieve our elected officials of their obligations to sponsor other activities in the community, or from coming to the community whenever the need arises. 

The United States is in the grip of it most severe internal political conflict since the US Civil War.  In this dangerous political climate, the Pittsburgh Black community must define, defend, and promote its social, economic and political interests. Town hall assemblies play a vital, indispensable role in this on-going process.

The Pittsburgh African American community has a long, long history of organizing productive community meetings of all kinds. From this history we take the “best practices” as lessons for today and tomorrow.

Now, you give further thought to this proposal. Discuss it with family and associates. Add to it. Refine it.

The Pittsburgh black community has the potential to help set the standards for conducting productive town hall meetings, and other kinds of public meetings across the national Black community. Let’s do that. Spread the news.

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