Sunday, November 1, 2009
Rep. Dan Boren’s town hall conference calls reach many
BY CHRIS CASTEEL
Published: November 1, 2009
WASHINGTON — By the time Rep. Dan Boren hung up the phone in his Capitol Hill office last Monday night, nearly 9,000 people had listened to him talk about such topics as health care, energy, horse slaughtering and hunting in Honobia.
Rep. Dan Boren fields questions during a town hall meeting at the Mid-America Expo Center south of Pryor, OK Aug. 18, 2009. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
He had talked about various burgs in his eastern Oklahoma district — "There are some Borens who live in Calvin,” he told one person — and dropped names such as Ted Nugent and T. Boone Pickens.
He spent a lot of time listening and nodding as callers listed their worries about Washington.
"You threw a lot of issues out there,” Boren told one caller who had a particularly long list of grievances. "Czars and guns and Copenhagen.”
Boren, a Democrat from Muskogee, held the latest in a series of "telephone town hall” meetings last week, taking advantage of an Internet-driven means to talk to the folks back home just after casting a vote on the House floor.
Boren’s office sent out a notice to district residents earlier this month that he was going to conduct some telephone town halls and asking those interested to call with their names and phone numbers. At the appointed time, a computer called all of the numbers and linked in participants.
Zain Khan, CEO of IConstituent, the company hired by Boren’s office to set up the calls, said more than half of the 535 lawmakers in Washington have used the technology.
"It’s a growing number,” he said.
President Barack Obama, he said, had done a call with about 1 million people.
Khan said it makes contact with the congressman easier for everyone, including the constituents.
Boren, as did many lawmakers, appeared in person at town hall meetings in his district in August; several hundred people showed up for those, far more than ever before as intense feelings about government spending and health care proposals drove people out to see him.
At the time, Boren had already planned the telephone town hall meetings, committing $13,500 for a package of four such calls, and he didn’t have any in-person meetings on his schedule.
However, he hastily arranged two when attendance was surging at other lawmakers’ events and some were asking why he wasn’t appearing anywhere.
Almost 9,000 different people were on last week’s hourlong call at one time or another; there was a steady audience of about 600 throughout the call.
Boren could pick among the callers to try to get different topics, though it didn’t always work out; a caller that he thought would ask about the stimulus bill asked about hunting access.
Though he was inside Washington, Boren did all he could to distance himself from it, dismissing "elitists” who, he said, don’t know that it’s more humane to slaughter horses than to let them starve, agreeing that people should worry about "unelected bureaucrats making decisions for us,” and saying he serves on the National Rifle Association board with Ted Nugent and would never restrict gun ownership.
"I could sit here and talk all night,” Boren said as the session wound down.
Read more: http://www.newsok.com/rep.-dan-borens-town-hall-calls-reach-many/article/3413631#ixzz0VcInZ6Hc