Olympia Rep. Brendan Williams says he hopes to save taxpayer money and have a better talk with voters Tuesday evening using a telephone town hall and live-blog discussion of issues.
A few hundred voters selected randomly will get calls about 6 p.m. Tuesday with an invitation to stay on the line, ask questions and discuss the issues of the day, as Williams put it. Those who don’t get calls can dial a number and be plugged in with a chance of asking Williams a question during the conference call.
Williams, a self-styled progressive Democrat in the 22nd district, said it worked well for lawmakers such as Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, and others who tried it during the legislative session that ended in April. U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, has tried a similar approach, drawing 400 people at a time.
“My understanding … is you get several hundred people who stay on the line,” Williams said, comparing that favorably with town hall meetings that have drawn far fewer participants. “I thought this might be the way to go, reach people in their homes and see if they can spare an hour to talk about the issues of the day.”
Williams said he will use money otherwise available for a newsletter sent to voters to pay for the town hall, and he estimated it will cost far less than what he has spent in the past. House records show his discretionary mailing and postage costs were $24,203.83 last year, largely for a newsletter he says was worthwhile but too expensive to continue in the economic downturn.
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said recently that the House has put tighter limits on mailers, capping costs, and that more lawmakers are moving to the online and electronic town hall approach.
Rep. Sam Hunt, the other Olympia Democrat in the 22nd, has done away with mailed newsletters, relying on e-mail. Williams said he also does that, providing information about his positions about issues to more than 1,000 people who have asked to be on his mailing list.
“I think it’s a great experiment. We’ll see how it works. If nothing else, a few hundred people may feel more empowered,’’ Williams said. He added that he hopes constituents understand his position in favor of tax increases and fewer budget cuts. “Not everyone knows I voted against the budget.’’
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688
How to participate
Voters who want to participate in Rep. Brendan Williams’ telephone town hall can call 877-229-8493 toll free between 6 and 7 p.m. Tuesday; the PIN is 14972. Another option is to follow the conversation and post questions in a live blog accessible at hdcadvance.blogspot.com.