Sen. Grassley skips town hall meetings in Johnson, Linn and other big Iowa counties for the fifth straight year

Chuck Grassley
Chuck Grassley attends the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa. — photo by Gage Skidmore

Last week, the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley announced Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator had completed another “Full Grassley,” the nickname Grassley has adopted for his annual tour of all the state’s 99 counties.

According to Grassley’s Senate website, his 37th annual tour concluded with a town meeting in Boone County. The announcement was accompanied by the following statement from the senator:

Representative government is a two-way street. I’m one half of the process and the people of Iowa are the other half. You can’t have representative government without dialogue between elected officials and the people we represent. I appreciate the opportunity to hold town meetings, answer questions and take comments from Iowans.

But as Progress Iowa documented in a 2016 report, Grassley’s “two-way street” detours around Iowa’s biggest population centers. Progress Iowa reviewed the published records of Grassley’s meetings in the state between 2011 and 2016, and found that during those years he held only three town hall meetings in Iowa’s 10 most populous counties. Two of those meetings were held in Scott County (2011 and 2012) and one was held in Pottawattamie (2011). He held no town hall meetings in Johnson, Linn, Polk, Story, Black Hawk, Woodbury, Dubuque and Dallas. Those eight counties contain 43 percent of the state’s population.

According to information published on Grassley’s Senate website, this year’s tour followed the established pattern of avoiding town halls in those 10 counties. The site lists the following stops for the 2017 Full Grassley.

Johnson County: toured and held a Q&A at the University of Iowa Community Credit Union Financial Center
Linn County: a Q&A with students at Central City High School
Black Hawk County: toured and held a Q&A at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo
Dallas County: toured and held a Q&A at Gilcrest Jewett in Waukee
Dubuque County: toured and held a Q&A with employees at Sedgwick Claims Management Services
Polk County: a Q&A with the Altoona Chamber of Commerce
Pottawattamie County: a Q&A with employees at TS Bank in Treynor
Scott County: a Q&A with members of the Quad Cities Morning Optimist Club
Story County: a Q&A with the Ames Chamber of Commerce
Woodbury Country: a Q&A with students at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City

In a press release following the end of this year’s tour, Progress Iowa said, “Year after year, Senator Grassley reminds us that he visits all 99 counties in Iowa. But that claim is hollow without open, public dialogue from constituents all across the state, not just where the Senator chooses his audience.”

Little Village emailed Grassley’s office last week to ask if the senator has plans to hold town hall meetings in these counties, and if the senator had any comment on Progress Iowa’s statement, but has not received a reply.

In response to questions from The Gazette when the Progress Iowa report was first published in 2016, a Grassley spokesperson said the senator prefers a mix of formats to meet the public, and was not deliberately avoiding public sessions in heavily populated areas.