Congressman Dan Donovan, a Republican representing Bay Ridge and Staten Island, held a massive town hall meeting over the phone last night. But not every constituent applauded the outreach effort.
Some 14,000 people dialed in to the Tele-Town Hall (the call went out to 55,000), according to Congressman’s staff, to listen and ask their Congressman questions.
There was a good mix of people from both Bay Ridge and Staten Island calling in. Most of the callers expressed concerns over what will happen with healthcare (both ACA and Medicare), national security, travel restrictions, Bannon, and Russian influence on American politics, and the ever increasing property taxes.
But another two dozen people from Congressional District 11 braced the wind and freezing temperatures to protest outside the Congressman’s Brooklyn district office in Dyker Heights.
The reason? Dan Donovan’s insistence on engaging with his constituents through individual meetings or via Tele-Town-Halls rather than in-person Town Halls.
Politically, the protesters spanned across the aisle with some Trump voters and some Clinton voters, from both Brooklyn and Staten Island. The event was organized by South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance and Fight Back Bay Ridge.
These two Southern Brooklyn community groups have been very vocal in their determination to resist Republicans in Congress and the White House — just last week a number of protesters disrupted a Chamber of Commerce event.
As they mingled outside, some protesters called in and listened to the town hall.
Neighbors expressed frustration with the tele-town hall format, saying it was a perfect way for Representative Donovan to screen questions and avoid meeting his constituents in person.
“No one is more in touch with his constituents than Dan Donovan,” said his Press Secretary Alexia Sikora in response. “Through regular tele-town hall meetings that allow people with busy schedules to participate from their homes and face-to-face meetings with everyone who requests one, the Congressman is in a constant exchange with his constituents.”
In addition, it seems that Donovan’s office believes that it is the only way to engage in a meaningful dialogue these days with vocal neighborhood opposition groups disrupting Republican Town Halls all over the country:
“They’re not interested in a respectful exchange of ideas or even in allowing Congressman Donovan an opportunity to speak with them – they seem to want only to shout down any opinion different from theirs, ” said his Communications Director Patrick Ryan in a letter to the editor last week.
For those living in Congressional District 11, a new form just went up on Congressman’s website for anyone interested in dialing-in to future Tele-Town Hall meetings. The calls are toll-free. And should you wish to schedule an in person meeting with the Congressman, there is a form for that too.
But the community organizers are not letting up: “We’ve come out tonight to show our representative that we want to see him in person to talk about his actions as a Congressman, the good ones and the bad ones,” said Costa Kokkinos, a founding member of South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance.
If Donovan does not host an in-person town hall meeting within the next couple months, the two groups plan to host their own town hall meeting in Brooklyn or Staten Island sometime in March.