On Saturday, Feb. 23, Delegate Brian Crosby (D) held the first Town Hall of his term, having recently taken office following his victory over Republican opponent Deb Rey in the Midterms. At the town hall, concerned constituents ambled about the room exchanging opinions, debates regarding the merit of contentious issues such as ‘Death with Dignity’ or the Fight for $15 echoed down the hall, and handshakes were exchanged for hugs.
Crosby swapped out the normal town hall format for an innovative new take, allowing constituents to get into the nitty-gritty policy details, first giving an overview of current issues and legislation, then quickly breaking into collaborative working groups to discuss four predetermined topics: minimum wage, the environment, transportation and death with dignity. Each person was then given multiple red, yellow and green dot stickers, and asked to place them in accordance with the issues they wish to see Crosby prioritize on his legislative agenda.
Prior to splitting into policy groups, Crosby welcomed those present, thanking them for their commitment to him— especially early on a Saturday morning, prompting an outbreak of laughter. He then launched into a run-down of his time in the Maryland House of Delegates thus far. He began with a discussion of the intersection of Route 5 and Great Mills, fondly referring to the traffic issues as the “bane of everyone’s existence,” and emphasized the need for constituent engagement on the issue to get it moved up on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s list of priorities. He summarized the popular campaign to raise the minimum wage, known as the Fight for $15, explaining that he was listening to the concerns of small businesses who were worried about being able to keep their employees on at the same rate, saying that there were “several problems with the bill as it stands.” Crosby then segued into a discussion of a bill to determine insurance rate calculations, explaining that the effort was “a good way to chip at systemic or institutional racism,” going on to say that “poor people really pay a price to be poor in this country.”
After a quick but thorough examination of current bills, Crosby introduced the four facilitators who would run the discussion groups and soon the room was abuzz with people debating the use of plastic straws in restaurants, the best way to control the traffic flow from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and many other issues. The efforts of each small group was summarized by the facilitators on a large pad of paper stuck to the wall, where the pros and cons of each bill could displayed, allowing for constituents to place their colorful dots based on priority level.
Crosby bounced from session to session, weighing in, asking questions, and nodding as constituents voiced their concerns, asking him to champion their causes.
The most popular issue, in terms of the amount of people gathered around, was the debate surrounding assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill— the aforementioned “Death with Dignity” movement . Many people were concerned with the potential for suicidal but not terminally ill folks getting ahold of the medicine and ending their lives, or in the most extreme cases, young children accidentally ingesting the medicine. Others argued that this would enable people to avoid the worst of the suffering related with terminal illness, letting them die with dignity, as the name suggests. Some of the discussion became lively, as one man passionately defended people being able to avoid the last few months of hospice care, allowing them to die peacefully with family, as opposed to spending the last few days in a haze of pain-killer infused disorientation. As with any conversation surrounding death, impassioned arguments were made on both sides, but always respectfully, with each person giving others time to reply.
Overall, the event ran smoothly, representing a change of pace from the typical town hall setting. The turnout indicated continued interest with the delegate, as almost every seat was filled, with the collaborative style of thinking allowing constituents to be involved in the political process. Many thought that Crosby’s opponent, former Delegate Rey, would be present, but she and her supporters appear to have stayed away. One person present joked about their criticism, referring to her supporters as “self-righteous keyboard warriors.” Rey has recently been criticized for posting on social media from her Delegate account, leading to some concern that she is misinforming voters.
Crosby also advertised the opening of his district office, which is located at 46940 S. Shangri-La Drive, Suite 16, Lexington Park, MD 20653. The office will be operating on limited-hours, as the delegate is still getting his footing in Annapolis, but its existence fulfills his campaign promise to have a brick and mortar space for constituents to feel welcome and heard.