Dan Donovan Is Told To “Do Your Job” By Angry Constituents At Coffee Talk

BAY RIDGE – Congressman Dan Donovan of 11th Congressional District (CD11) held Coffee Talk – a town hall meeting this past Saturday afternoon at Fort Hamilton High School’s cafeteria in Bay Ridge.

The meeting with his Brooklyn constituents, over coffee and munchkins from Dunkin Doughnuts, was full of tense moments and ended on a sour note for Donovan.

The event gathered between 60 -70 people. There were about two dozen of the CD11 Handmaids (red-caped women channeling The Handmaid’s Tale) who had come to protest Congressman Donovan’s vote on HR36, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks.

The event started about 20 minutes late. Donovan told those gathered “I’ll never lie to you, I’ll always tell the truth.” He also briefly mentioned the recent tax bill, which he voted against: “My vote on Thursday was in the best interest of you and your families.” 

With that, the questioning began.

Out of the 51 people who had questions to ask, less than half were addressed. Most of them were regarding net neutrality, abortion, and Medicare, but some were about climate change, HR10, and Trump. Most thanked him for his vote on the tax bill. 

Two dozen of the CD11 Handmaids, who came to protest Congressman Donovan’s vote on HR36, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks.

Abortion issue came up early, with one woman asking for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and another thanking the Congressman for voting for HR36. That led to eye rolls from some of the audience members, and hisses from the Handmaids who also cried out, “Citation needed!” whenever either woman talked about whether a fetus feels pain or how much of Planned Parenthood’s services goes towards abortion.

Donovan simply said, “I am pro-life, but I believe in the exception.”

When it came to net neutrality, Donovan at first said, “It hasn’t come up to us to vote on it.” Later, when more people asked about the same issue, Donovan explained that he was not an Internet guy. But, “stay for a moment afterwards. My staff will stay and take your information” – an answer the Congressman had for many of the questions, especially towards the end.

Many were concerned about losing Medicare. A woman named Hope said: “I am terrified at what your party is doing. I am terrified about healthcare. Too many people I know and love depend on Medicare. How many Americans are going to be killed by this death blow?”

As soon as the cheers and applause for Hope died down, she asked: “Will you co-sponsor the Alexander-Murray bill?” That bill, known as the Bipartisan Healthcare Stabilization Act, is meant to extend payments to insurance companies for another two years.

Donovan replied, “I’ll look at it and let you know.” When asked  about it again later, he explained why he has not yet looked at it: “I’ve been spending four weeks protecting your taxes.”

Donovan rattled his constituents by pointing out that it is debatable whether climate change exists or not. “It’s debatable whether mankind has a great input or not. It’s a debate,” he explained as attendees cried out, “No, it’s not! Look at the science!”

He then replied, “I believe in science and our military is about to put forward proposals for ways they believe climate change will harm the U.S. We’re going to pay attention to that. I believe it is happening.”

One man, named David, pointed out the Congressman that he has called President Trump a personal friend of his, yet Trump has allegations of sexual harassment towards young girls and does little to condemn racism. “Congressman,” David asked. “Don’t you want better friends than that?” – to which the audience applauded and cheered loudly.

Congressman Donovan replied, “I’ve known the President for 20 years, I don’t condone assault on women.” He’d say no more on the topic.

The final question came from Steven, who first thanked the Congressman for voting against the tax bill, and then pointed out that his vote for the HR 10 bill, which repeals the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act put in place after the 2008 financial crash that led to the Great Recession, was gambling with the livelihoods of those who have not yet recovered from the recession.

“How dare you?” Steven said. “Your votes are gambling with our finances!”

As the Congressman began to say that he’ll look into it, Steve cut him off. “Oh stop it, that’s all you say! Do your job!”

“Now, you’re being insulting,” Congressman Donovan said.

“I’m insulting?” Steven began to get angrier. “You say you’re going to read about it. That’s all you say. How dare you!”

With that, Congressman Dan Donovan ended the coffee talk just as the clock turned 4 o’clock. A few attendees pointed out that the gathering started twenty minutes late, but Donovan walked away from the crowd.

Attendees either booed or chanted “Do your job!” at him.

Congressional District 11 encompasses all of Staten Island, and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend.

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Megan McGibney

A native New Yorker, Megan McGibney enjoys such topics as education, the arts and business. A 2008 graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, she is also an adjunct lecturer at CUNY. You can reach out to her at www.meganmcgibney.com or @MeganMcGibney.


  1. I’m a constituent of Donovan’s, and it’s worth pointing out that this was the fourth of five coffee klatches, the earliest of which was on 10/28, and the last of which was the following day, 11/19. I attended three of the first four (skipping Gravesend) but friends of mine were at the Gravesend coffee.

    There’s a pattern here: ALL of the events started about 20 minutes late. Each and every time. By the time the little speeches are given, this means Donovan has about 90 minutes to address constituent questions. The YMCA and Gravesend events were poorly attended, so all questions were addressed, but the event at New Dorp went down to the wire, with Donovan rushing through answers to get to everyone (with about 30 questions answered), and at FHHS and Port Richmond, people didn’t get answers.

    Clearly, Donovan needs to hold more of these, and possibly focus them on individual concerns. Why not a 2-hour coffee on Net Neutrality alone? A 2-hour coffee on immigration? Yes, this is time consuming, but it’s less time consuming than the very safe “individual constituent meetings” that Donovan likes to hold. Those events leave him 25 minutes with a group of 1-5 individual constituents: at maximum, 20 constituents in two hours. He also won’t allow those individual conversations to be documented or recorded, which means we lose the opportunity to remind him of what he has said in the past when he doesn’t stick to it.

    The second major issue is shown here, but since this deals with only one coffee, needs elaboration. By the coffee at FHHS, Donovan had been asked about certain issues at EVERY coffee, beginning on 10/28, and a month later was still saying “I’ll look into it.” What a waste of time for people who showed up on 11/18 or 11/19 to ask about Dodd-Frank, Net Neutrality, or Alexander-Murray, to hear the same answer every time, “I have to look into it,” even with votes he has already taken (Dodd-Frank) or votes coming up next week (Net Neutrality).

    The Congressman’s note that he’s been focused on tax reform seems reasonable at first glance, but it’s a sham. He has a staff whose job it is to brief him, but he asks constituents to send him information by email. He never says when he will get back to people about their concerns. And he stacked these meetings so closely together that he could continue to use the same line, “I’ll look into it,” with impunity, and without actually looking into anything. If he had held one a month, he might have had time to study and, as the chanters said, “do his job.”

    But Donovan doesn’t WANT to have answers for us, because he isn’t representing our interests. When asked about Net Neutrality, he should have at least brushed up on it a LITTLE by the later coffees, rather than saying “I’m not a tech guy” and “My VCR still flashes 12:00,” as though this ignorance were somehow laudable. When asked by Steven about Dodd-Frank, Donovan should have told the truth about why he voted for that bill in April, rather than holding his lie of “I’ll look into it.” If a man can’t defend his actions, maybe it’s because they’re indefensible. If he says “I’ll look into it,” and he doesn’t, one must ask why he doesn’t want to be informed. It’s because he’s going to vote the way he wants, and he doesn’t care about our input.

    These coffees were a sham. Hopefully he won’t be holding any more, because hopefully he will be voted out in 2018. He’s being challenged by Grimm on the right and eight qualified Democrats on the left. As one man pointed out at Port Richmond the next day, if these coffees are any indication of the district’s feelings, things do not look good for Donovan in 2018.

  2. I live in Bay Ridge and I couldn’t make it to this talk but it’s pretty sad when Donovan makes Michael Grimm, a convicted criminal, look good.

  3. These coffees are not an indication of the district feelings. Like any town hall meeting, they are mobbed by organized left winger, who represent a laughably tiny minority here. Donovan should stop wasting his time with these meetings.

  4. I was at the last two town halls and was one of several people who raised the issue of net neutrality. I agree with Mallory that it was frustrating that he said “I’ll look into it” the first time I brought up the matter and still hadn’t by the next meeting. However, I joined up with the other people who had come to talk about net neutrality at the last town hall and we got a private meeting with the congressman last week. Now I just came across a recent letter from DD on net neutrality that someone posted online: https://imgur.com/a/u8kbr
    It does not reflect a commitment to protect NN, but it suggests he is somewhat more educated on the matter and might be coming around. I think persistence is helpful, but I think it will take a lot of pressure to get him to break the party line.

  5. This will be my first time voting come 2018 and Dan Donovan doesn’t look like my choice with his answers on Neutrality…

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