Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hundreds question Tom Reed

ALLEN: Congressman Tom Reed spent last Saturday meeting constituents in a few small towns including at the Town Hall in Allen where people arrived early because the meeting was scheduled indoors, in a facility that seats only 49. Hoping to get in at 4, the queue formed at 2.  Voters wanted to express concerns, ask questions and listen to both their representative and fellow citizens.
                Unseasonal warmth melted snow turning the parking area into a gooey mire that little by little was filled with people who left their cars parked as much as 1/4 mile away on the road sides to stand between puddles or climb on a flatbed. An hour before the meeting started there were 90 people in line.
Jacob Elias 
                While waiting I talked with Jacob Elias, a graduate student at Cornell. With no meetings scheduled near Ithaca, he felt he had to drive to Allen to voice his support for funding the National Science Foundation.  With Elias was Rachel Fordise who was one among many worried about losing the ACA.
                As time passed, about 25 gathered around Trump/Pence signs. A few of them were concerned about “outsiders” being at the location. They felt that the meeting was for constituents in Allen and with so many people from Hornell, Bath, Geneseo, and Ithaca, local residents would be drowned out.  
                (The 23rd Congressional District sprawls from Lake Erie to near Endicott, not on county or town lines but on party registration.)
                Shortly before Reed arrived, the crowd of about 400 sang Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land. With the cooperative weather, Reed chose to stay outdoors as he had at earlier meetings. A megaphone was used by both Reed and questioners but at times words were lost in the wind, covered by boisterous shouts or drowned by booing.
                To begin, Reed led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with the crowd shouting the final words “with liberty and justice for all.” Reed then took the first question in which he was asked why he voted against demanding Donald Trump’s tax returns. While Reed said that Trump deserved his privacy the crowd shouted that they deserved to see what was being hidden.
                The second question was one of many about health care. People in the crowd shouted that they want to improve the ACA. Questions and shouts also made clear that these constituents want to preserve Medicare, to create a single payer healthcare system, and to allow bargaining with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the costs of prescriptions.
                Reed said, “Just so we’re clear. I’m going to stand for the repeal of the ACA in spite of your feelings.”
                When someone shouted, “You work for us.” Reed, smiling, declined to support universal health care or negotiated drug prices. He wants Medicaid to be available for those at 100% of the poverty level and thinks that people should put money into a health savings account. He supports offering birth control over the counter and keeping people on their parent’s insurance until they 26 but not the entire ACA.
                Reed wants older citizens to have a choice for their health care rather than continuing Medicare as it is. That statement drew shouts and boos. While Reed said that this would save Medicare people shouted that Medicare is not broken and that elderly can’t afford private insurance.
                Fred Sinclair, from Alfred, asked for Reed’s stance on DAPL, Keystone and NAPL pleading for support for the people being massacred at Standing Rock.  Reed said that he supported the construction of those pipelines and, later, added support for gas storage at Seneca Lake.
                Another environmentalist asked about the EPA and Reed said that he supported the EPA but felt that many regulations, particularly those regarding water, harmed farmers.
                A woman stated that half of the money donated to Reed’s election campaign came from healthcare, pharmaceutical and financial institutions, all based outside of the 23rd Congressional District while donations from people like her accounted for only 3% of his funding. “Why should I believe that your positions are based on data and not donations?” she asked.
                Reed said that he didn’t know about his donations but high-spirited booing drowned the rest of his answer.   
                In response to questions about investigating Russia’s influence in the Republican Administration Reed said that there is no evidence. Many in the crowd shouted for the release of Trump’s taxes and toi “follow the money”.
                Fears about cutting Social Security bought out a self-identified “68 year old nasty woman”. She said that she paid and paid into SS as her children are paying and paying but she fears for their future.  Reed said that he is committed to changing SS to save it.  
                Several shouted, “Raise the FICA limit,” but it wasn’t clear that Reed heard them.
                When asked if Black Lives Matter, Reed said that all lives matter and someone shouted, “Then refugees should matter.” When asked how the Dreamers can be helped, Reed said that he hoped there could be a path forward for those young people while someone in the crowd shouted, “Arrest and deportation will work.”
                When Reed announced that he had to leave, the crowd applauded dispersing in groups toward their vehicles but Gary Ostrower, former Mayor of Alfred and Reed’s college history professor, stepped up to shake his hand.

                Later Ostrower said, “First of all, you’ve got to give Tom Reed credit for showing up. There are scores of congress people who are cancelling these kinds of things precisely because they are fearful of controversy. Second, he’s not an ideologue in the way that Lamar Smith and others are. Tom will talk and will listen so I feel a personal loyalty to him that I don’t feel for the Republican Administration and I’ve been a Republican for 50 years.”

The Women's March: on the Road from Allegany County

WELLSVILLE: Nearly 3 million women, girls, sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, friends and others with concerns for the political situation now clogging the news in the United States headed for a Women’s March in Washington or elsewhere on Saturday, January 21.  It was reported the huge crowd in New York City turned the “march” into a “stand” while the event in Buffalo involved thousands walking on both sides of Delaware Avenue to Niagara Square.  In Philadelphia people strolled with songs, shouts and chants on the Franklin Parkway.
                In all the marches, there was a center point where speakers talked about ways to become and stay involved.
                Some people mocked the marches as useless. What’s the goal? Is this a permanent group? Does it ever matter to speak up? People who talked with me in Philadelphia that day as well as those who recounted the day to me later all found goals and support.
                I marched with 3 young women in Philadelphia. Emma Meetz took a bus from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to march with college friends. Meetz said, “There’s been so much negative conversation in the last year that this seemed like a chance to get together and be with people who would give me ideas about how to carry forth.”
                Meetz works in a Pittsburgh Library that services a large group of Bhutanese Buddhists. She plans to return with energy to advocate for women.  She said, “I will try not to be selfish but to be a better listener and to understand the views of the Trump supporters in my community.”
                Emily Royer hosted Meetz in Philly. Royer has been upset about the changes that the Trump administration presented. She said, “I’d like to see the ACA remain and to keep Roe vs. Wade. I don’t support a Muslim registry and want to protect the rights of LGBT people.”
                Royer said that the emphasis on fossil fuel production stifles renewable energy jobs. “Opportunities for tens of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy are at risk and these would be local jobs that would boost our cities.”
                Lauren Westenheiser marched with them and said that in looking over social media she felt that almost everyone she knew marched from her aunt (Tucson), to colleagues (DC), college friends and cousins around the country. She said she is inspired now and will follow up with regular phone calls to her local and national representatives.
                Rusty Tobin, from Belmont, went to Buffalo. The event there was organized quickly by the Western NY Peace Center under the name: No Hate. No Mandate. Police were friendly even though the march had no permit, the reason why marchers held to the sidewalk until reaching Niagara Square for the speakers.
                Tobin had marched against war in the 60s but not since and said that she was surprised and delighted by the creative signs brought out. She described the group as about 80% women, many over 60, but also including babies, children, and teens.
                Tobin is interested in staying in contact with representatives at the state and national level. She said the event was psychologically empowering and will help her fight the move to privatize Medicare.
                D. Chase Angier left Hornell at 2:30 am to ride a bus to Washington DC. She hoped that the world would see that there are still many Americans who want to stand up for human rights, women’s rights and the security of a healthy planet. She has always advocated for these things as well as for the arts but now has more friends to work with in those areas.
                Because the environment is important to her, when she stayed with a friend recently, instead of giving a bottle of wine, she gave a membership to the Sierra Club. Moving from material gifts to meaningful, active gifts is a change she is seeing more and more people make.
                Rebecca Bennett has family in Wellsville and Andover but works in Binghamton so that’s where she went on Saturday. The organizers expected 200 or so but were shocked with the arrival of over 3,000.  From Martin Luther King Park, they could see streams of people walking to gather so they offered the microphone to anyone wanting to talk as they waited for all to arrive.
                Bennett said that several children spoke. One 10 year old boy said that some of his friends are immigrants and others are people of color and he wants all of them to be safe.  
                Another to talk was a great grandmother who said she had marched both for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. She said, “We’ve come too far to go back.”
                In agreement, Bennett said that she will read to keep informed and write letters and call her representatives to push them forward.
                One of the most significant local sites for a march was in Seneca Falls. Many from Alfred chose to attend events there including JoEllen delCampo. She said the planning for the event was flawless with a great cross-section of speakers including indigenous people and a sound system that allowed everyone to hear.
                Being among the men and women, of all ages, was inspiring. The message for the day, she said, was, “Make this a movement and not a moment. Be a participant with persistence and patience. Call, email, attend town meetings and, if you are of the right temperament, run for office.”

For Alfred and Alfred Station
Senators - Charles Schumer (202) 224-6542 and Kirsten Gillibrand (202) 224-4451
Congressperson Tom Reed (202) 225-3161
State Senator Cathy Young (518) 455-3563
Assemblyperson Joe Giglio (518) 455-5241
For ideas on how to contact an elected official: (focused for march participants) (focused for liberal ideas)