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.
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.