A town hall meeting is a name given to an informal public meeting. Everybody in a town community is invited to attend, not always to voice their opinions, but to hear the responses from public figures and (if applicable) elected officials about shared subjects of interest. Attendees rarely vote on an issue or propose an alternative to a situation. It is not used outside of this secular context.
There are no specific rules or guidelines for holding a town hall meeting. If the turnout is large, and in a particular case the objective is to give as many people as possible an opportunity to speak, then the group can be broken down into smaller discussion groups. Each group in that case appoints someone to summarize discussion of their group. Many companies also have such meetings.
To me, a town hall meeting is the modern equivalent to a clan gathering around the fire. To share, to question, to be reassured...
To gain some sort of feeling of connection with neighbours, of commonality, to seek out reassurances or clarification from an elected offiicial...
To promote inclusion, participation, involvement and engagement in local governance.
Essentially, it's this:
A venue, such as a community centre, a church, a school auditorium, a hall, etc. hosts the event. Local residents attend. In most cases, you'd expect the ward Councillor to attend. The moderator should probably be someone non-aligned with either the community or the elected official, perhaps from a radio or television station, a newspaper or online civic activism site.
The meeting might have an open-structure: general news is offered by the Councillor and questions are fielded from the audience. Or an important issue might be the theme of the evening, and after The Councillor has briefed the resident, then it becomes a standard Q&A. The Councillor might be the only guest, or it might be that there's a panel. Or the Councillor might not even be there, it could be a seminar where guest speakers are brought in...there are myriad variations on the 'town hall meeting' theme.
But I'll tell you what it isn't:
-A group haranguing.
-An endless venting of spleens.
As I see it, one of the reasons there is a poor general relationship between residents and their elected officials is...
...there's never been sufficient effort applied to actually developing the relationship.
On the one hand, this is unrelentingly sad.
On the other...it provides some incredible opportunities for making Hamilton a much better place to live.