Faso passes on invite to Kingston ‘town hall’ meeting; calls format ‘not productive’

John Faso (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Republican lawmakers are facing pointed questions and raucous crowds at town hall meetings across the country this month. Freshman 19th Congressional District Representative John Faso (R-Kinderhook) is not one of them.

Instead, the veteran Albany politician turned Congressional neophyte is meeting with constituents in smaller forums. “I’ve seen around the country the ways the town halls have been conducted,” said Faso at a $20 a plate event for small business owners in Monticello on Tuesday. “They’re not productive and nobody believes they’re productive.”

The rowdy forums, where Republican senators and Congress members have endured heated, angry questioning over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, ties between Trump administration officials and Russia and other issues, have become a cable news staple in recent weeks. In many cases, the opposition is organized by grass-roots activist groups or local Democrats. Observers have drawn parallels with the reception given to Democratic lawmakers from the then-nascent Tea Party wing of the Republican Party after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act.

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In Ulster County, the liberal activist group Citizen Action of the Hudson Valley invited Faso to a town hall meeting at George Washington Elementary School, 67 Wall St., scheduled for Friday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. Faso declined the invitation citing a previously scheduled event in another part of the district. Instead, Faso offered to meet with small delegation from Citizen Action in his Kingston office on Thursday, Feb. 23.

But Citizen Action of the Hudson Valley lead organizer Callie Jayne said a closed-door meeting with a handful of group members was an insufficient response given area resident’s deep concern over the direction the country will take with Republicans holding the White House, the Senate and Congress. Jayne said that concern was evident in the number of people who had signed up for the town hall forum. Jayne said the signup list had already reached City Hall’s 280 seat capacity and the waiting list included 400 names. Jayne said the group was seeking a larger venue for the event, which it found late Wednesday in George Washington Elementary.

“There are hundreds of people, thousands of people who want to talk to him,” said Jayne.

Jayne described a “whirlwind” of activism prompted by Trump’s election that had kept groups like Citizen Action busy organizing and educating. Much of that effort, she said, involved educating people with little or no experience in activism how to contact and influence their elected officials. A forum like Friday’s town hall, she said, would have given residents an opportunity to question Faso on his voting record so far and his intentions going forward. Jayne said that much of the concern centered on how Faso would handle the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have long promised to repeal the law informally known as Obamacare. But since winning unified control of the federal government, the party has faltered over questions of how to repeal the law and what, if anything to replace it with. Faso, who ran as a pragmatic moderate, has said that he supports a “reform and fix” solution that would leave in place popular parts of Obamacare like allowing children to remain on their parents health plan up to age 26 and making insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions while ensuring that people who benefited from expanded Medicaid eligibility guidelines do not lose coverage. Faso also told lawmakers, in a surreptitiously recorded closed-doors meeting with GOP colleagues, that he would oppose any effort to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding as part of the repeal effort, calling it a “political minefield.” (Faso added that he would be open to defunding the reproductive health nonprofit agency through other means).

“We need him to publicly commit to not casting a vote, even a procedural vote that could lead to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act,” said Jayne.

With Faso declining to attend the event, Citizen Action has instead put together a panel of fellow activists to answer questions and make presentations. Invitees include representatives of the Sierra Club, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. Representatives will address questions on immigration, healthcare and climate change, Jayne said. Meanwhile, she said the door remains open to Faso.

“We don’t anticipate him showing up, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop asking.”

In an emailed response to questions about the town hall, Faso’s communications director Courtney Weaver said that the Congressman was traveling throughout the sprawling New York 19th Congressional District maintaining an “aggressive schedule” of one-on-one and small-group meetings with constituents. Weaver wrote that Faso had participated in public policy forums, call-in segments of radio and TV shows (including one on Kingston Community Radio on Monday, Feb. 20) and was preparing to host a “telephone town hall” to field questions from constituents who signed up for the event through his website faso.house.gov.

There are 12 comments

  1. Paul Sutera

    He’s got Medicare to privatize, SS to cut, Obamacare to repeal (even though he says “fix, not repeal”). Oh and whatever he can do to get the Pilgrim Pipeline to run through Saugerties, Kingston, Rosendale, and New Paltz. And huge tax-breaks to award to the super-wealthy. Why would he talk to middle-class people?

    You are aware that his Leader, Paul Ryan, has proposed and Passed a Medicare privatization bill in the House of Representatives 6 times since 2010, for those of us born after 1958. Oh and consumer protections and clear air/clean water protections – they need gutting too. You voted in a fossil fuel lobbyist afterall.

    Also financial reforms that came in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster. Gone! Thanks John Faso!

  2. Susan

    Another arrogant politician who does not think that he should be held accountable to the people in his district. He is only looking out for himself and what he thinks will be a long career in the US House of Representatives. We need to vote him out in 2018 and stymie his ambitions to gut the programs that matter most to us.

  3. Ken Are

    Write and call his office if you’re a constituent, letting them know he will lose your vote if he is not interested in the opinions of those he serves. All that matters to these people is their re-election. They are not acting on principle, they are acting on political odds. When the odds are never in their favor, they will react. Target reps, when you can, who won by narrow margins.

  4. Jason Warren

    I agree with comments that the highest priority for most politicians is to get re-elected. It consumes much more of their time than governing, but I would not characterize all those clamoring for meetings with Faso as liberal activists. There are -plenty- of seniors in Faso’s district who are very nervous about the future of Medicare and Social Security under a GOP-dominated Congress that seems hell-bent on eradicating the benefits they paid for over their working careers. Proposals to privatize these programs inject the profit motive where it doesn’t belong and will only reduce benefits. Health Savings Accounts have replace retiree medical insurance from many employers with awful results. The accounts require that every individual becomes his/her own insurer which is ridiculous; insurance works (when it does) because it spreads risk over many individuals so that each one need not be in a position to fully insure themselves.

  5. Carol Maltby

    Gabby Giffords (former Arizona Representative, shot in the head while meeting publicly with constituents) called on lawmakers who are “refusing to hold town halls” to make themselves available to their constituents.

    “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage,” Giffords said. “Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”

  6. Catherine Sweet

    I have called I have emailed I have written in thru his website Tomorrow I am going to his Kingston office and demand he speak with me! Funny, he says he will meet with small groups of people or people one on one (after you jump thru hoops) however most of us work during the day, where are his night hours? Oh that’s right refuses to have any. I may disagree with most of the republican congressman but at least I respect the ones that are willing to have town halls and meet the people that voted them into office. Shame on you John Faso I hope you realize you are a one term congressman, why should I vote for you again????

  7. grace smith

    My respect and my vote goes to those members of conger who are willing and able to address, in public, groups of constituents. Voters have deep seated concerns: ACA, paying for the wall, hiring thousands of ICE agents, reopening private, for-profit prisons, fake news, etc.

  8. Andrew Cort

    Faso, bad news. You work for US. Not Trump, not your party, not corporate America, and not yourself. You work for US. Get it into your thick head. You don’t tell the boss that the meeting s/he called would be “unproductive” so you don’t feel like coming. You don’t get this? RESIGN! NOW!

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