Saturday January 13, 2018
As shown in "Costello's vote for tax bill draws fire from constituents" (Reading Eagle, Jan. 7), U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello's town hall in Wyomissing drew only about 80 participants. Why so few? Your readers may not be aware of the lengths to which his office goes to limit the right of the public to question him.
First, he speaks to the public very rarely. This is only his second town hall in our area in a year.
Second, the town halls typically are announced on very short notice, about 48 hours in this case.
Third, they are strictly limited to constituents. I heard of some people living only blocks away who were excluded because they are gerrymandered into other districts.
Fourth, no one without a ticket is admitted. People had a 24-hour window to register, then had to wait for confirmation from Costello's staff, before bringing a ticket and ID to be admitted. (It feels like visiting a prison.)
Finally, and most disturbingly, anyone whom Costello's staff deems to be a "security risk" is barred from his public events. This includes people I know who have taken part in peaceful protests at the congressman's office.
This is America today: You can use your right to protest or your right to free speech, but not both. Costello should tell us how long these people will be sentenced to lose their civil rights, with no charges and no court proceedings.
Lawmaker's town hall should be more open