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Can Dianne Feinstein be the responsive senator we need?

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, right, lends a reassuring touch to evacuee Margaret DiGenova at a community meeting with residents still reeling from the fires at Santa Rosa High School on Oct. 13, 2017. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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Last April, after nearly 25 years in office, Sen. Dianne Feinstein held her very first town hall and promised at that event to hold another town hall “on a weekend during the summer.” As members of Indivisible, we were thrilled because we believe deeply that responsive representation is essential to the strength of our republic. Open and consistent dialogue with everyday Californians helps ensure that our elected officials represent our interests.

Unfortunately, Feinstein broke that promise.

Over the August recess, the senator attempted to pass off an exclusive Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco — at $40 to $65 per ticket — as a town hall. We, as members of grassroots Indivisible groups across California, find this unacceptable. True town halls are free of charge and involve an open forum for questions that have not been vetted by a third party, particularly her staff or others beholden to her. The Commonwealth Club event was an interview moderated by a long-time ally who incorporated a few pre-screened questions from the public.

Meanwhile, her “constituent breakfasts” in Washington, D.C., held while the Senate is in session, are only for Californians who have the means to fly across the country. If a senator meets mostly with well-heeled donors and influential leaders, but not everyday constituents, whom can she adequately represent?

We are not yet taking a position on who California’s next senator should be, but we are united in our call for all of our representatives to be more responsive. We hope Feinstein will heed this call and hold frequent town halls as long as she represents California. She still has time this year, and we hope that she takes the opportunity to engage in face-to-face dialogue with constituents.

The senator is running for re-election and said she’s “all in” and “ready for a good fight.” Let her demonstrate it at town halls throughout California.

Aram Fischer and Amelia Cass are activists with the Indivisible movement, writing in partnership with Indivisible groups in San Francisco, the East Bay, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, South Bay, Petaluma, Orinda, Silicon Valley, Sacramento, San Diego, Windsor and Yolo.

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