Politics & Government
5:13 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Senator Johnson Pioneers 'Tele-Town Halls'

Sen. Ron Johnson hosting constituents visiting Washington, DC. His efforts to use "tele-town halls" are featured in a new Milwaukee Magazine article.
Credit Senate website

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich talks to Milwaukee Magazine's Larry Sandler about his article "The Red Phone" in September's Issue.

For years, local town hall meetings have been a venue enabling people to have access to their elected officials. But politics and technology are changing the town hall dynamic for at least one Wisconsin politician.

Senator Ron Johnson has become known for hosting "tele-town hall meetings," according to a new article in Milwaukee Magazine.

"The idea of a tele-town hall," says writer Larry Sandler, "is that  instead of having a traditional town hall meeting where people get into a high school gym or auditorium or some other big meeting hall, and they all ask their question or make their comments directly to the senator, it's done by teleconference."

The senator has held close to 25 tele-town halls since being elected. They're convenient - allowing tens of thousands of attendants from around the state to attend. But Sandler says they're also less-personal - as many as 40,000 people listen in on the phone call. And because there is often less public notice required to get people to attend, these virtual meetings can fly under the radar of some who would like their opinions heard.

"With the tele-town halls, at least the way Senator Johnson does it, they are publicized, basically, only...at his events. You don't find out about them in the newspaper, there aren't emails sent out about them, there aren't postings on his website," Sandler says.

Sandler’s article, “The Red Phone” is in the September issue of Milwaukee Magazine.