Dear Congressman Faso
I am very disappointed that you will be a no show at the townhall arranged for you in Kingston. I was one of your constituents that got a ticket to attend. I prepared. I have questions on important topics that I am concerned about, concerns on the ACA, the environment, Dodd-Frank and Russian interference with our Democracy. I am hearing you state “ a townhall would not be productive.” This comment highlights a wrong direction for any democracy. We are hearing, and for good reason, criticism of Americans limiting who they have discussion with and the negative effects of “creating an echo chamber of their own ideas.”
There is no question I was disappointed after this election. I am not one to sit and whine, so I took action. First, I reached out to dear friends that I know voted differently than me. They took up my offer, because they don’t believe the masses are as polarized as the politicians portray. We are having meaningful discussions on differences and very importantly having great discussions on areas of common ground. This election has made me more active and I have been researching my concerns and calling my members of congress. I see this as a good thing to engage with those with different views and engage with our democracy. I would have expected the same from my elected officials. To say it is not productive to hear from me…to not allow me to ask questions with follow up? I would expect this engagement by my elected official to be the bare minimum of representation.
Representative Faso your community needs your leadership now more than ever. I am so disappointed.
Aiello’s plan — single payer
Our president is putting too much dye in his hair and he is showing a lack of common sense when he wants to do away with Obmacare and have nothing to replace it with. All the chatter about what the President’s plan is simply just chatter. There has been much discussion about the cost of health insurance, who gets it for free, who pays and who has nothing at all. While blame is being cast indiscriminately, the U.S. heath care system itself is outrageously expensive, while at the same time, blatantly inadequate.
Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized world, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while we still have and will have millions upon millions of completely uninsured. This is so because we spend more and get less, because we operate with a network of for profit payers who waste money on items that have little nor nothing to do with healthcare: overhead, billing, marketing, in addition to an obligation to make profits, as well as exorbitant executive salaries. At the same time, doctors and hospitals are forced to maintain expensive administrative staffs just to deal with this bureaucracy. Consequently, about 31 percent of health premiums fall prey to needless administrative costs.
A single-payer Medicare expanded plan can capture this wasted money. The potential savings on this administrative waste is estimated to cost $350 billion annually, enough to provide coverage to everyone without adding to what we already pay, according to the American College of Physicians.
Under this plan, Americans would be covered for everything that the best plans currently offer, while patients can regain free choice of doctors and hospitals. Meanwhile, doctors once again would have autonomy over patient care. This could be accomplished by eliminating private insurers and taking back the administrative waste, while, fees could be imposed replacing current, outrageously high premiums paid by individuals and employers.
Mr. President, you cannot eliminate an essential service, call it reform while at the same time have no plan for reform in place. Mr. President I, at least have a plan.
Town Hall buzz
From the Women’s March after the Inauguration, to spontaneous demonstrations at airports in reaction to the immigrant travel ban, to over-flowing town hall meetings, Americans are stepping forward to express their opinions and concerns to their congressional representatives.
This outpouring, that is our democratic right of expression, has spooked many congress people, especially in gerrymandered districts such as Jason Chaffetz’s of Utah, and has been met with feigned disbelief by them. Instead of being open to constituent concerns, they have denounced town hall participants as being brought in from outside their districts in a “paid attempt to bully and intimidate.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer has accused them of being a “very paid, Astro-Turf movement.” Like claims of voter fraud, accusations of mercenary activity and outside agitation at town halls remain baseless. Those accusations are simply smoke screens to hide the fact that people do not agree with what is being foisted on them and they are speaking out clearly and in numbers that indicate the extent of the concern
Town halls, mainstays of constituent /representative dialog, have been being abandoned by many who claim the outpouring of citizen concern is “disruptive” or “unproductive.” Boisterous as some may become, the skilled and open politician will allow for intensity of expression, acknowledge concerns, engage the crowd thus create dialog, not just promote dogma.
The job of the elected officials is to listen to concerns and see that they are addressed, not to run from them and legislate in a manner uninformed by constituent feedback. It is a job they sought and were elected to do, for which we are paying them. We should expect them show up and listen, especially when the demand for dialog is so clearly expressed, not to shrink from that duty because they are not receiving approval for their current positions. Smaller meetings have their place, but the dynamics of town hall meetings are important and offer a wider opportunity constituent participation.
The rallies and town hall type meetings in which I have participated have certainly been conducted with intense purpose, but with due decorum and respect when the representative actually shows up. I feel the vast majority of those joining in display dedication to those principles and certainly are not being paid to participate…this is just democracy! Town halls also offer a chance for us to speak to each other and, whatever our positions, be open and take the opportunity to listen to one another as our representatives should listen to us…
Democracy is not a spectator sport…join in.
LGBTQ children are ours
The decision of Attorney General Sessions and President Trump to roll back protections for LGBTQ students is a clear violation of Title IX; but worse, it is another example of this administration’s willingness to pursue personal agendas and appease narrow political constituencies, this time at the expense of protecting our nation’s children. In refusing to stand up for LGBTQ children, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, abandoned all children, whose best interests she promised to serve.
Title IX is not just about giving girls a chance to play sports. The purpose of Title IX is to protect all students from discrimination and harassment based on sex, a synonym for gender (see Roget’s Thesaurus). All children have a right to feel safe and respected in school; without that, it is practically impossible for them to learn.
Tolerance is a foundation of our democratic traditions. When our government refuses to support the rights of LGBTQ students to choose the bathroom where they feel most comfortable and safe, it is a cruel and vicious denial of their civil rights.
Additionally, Sessions’ argument that this is a states’ rights issue ignores the lessons of contemporary jurisprudence embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its progeny. North Carolina stands as one of the clearest examples of why, in the realm of civil rights, the federal government needs to continue supervise the states’ implementation of the laws protecting citizens’ most basic freedoms.
LGBTQ children are our children: our sons and daughters, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren, our neighbors and friends.
Deidre J. Byrne
CSX’s slow response
In the aftermath of the tragic automobile and train accident that claimed the life of Bertha Whispell at the intersection of Doyle’s Lane and the CSX Rail-lines, information has come out about previous fatal accidents between vehicles and CSX trains along the various intersections across the Kings Highway Corridor in Saugerties. In September 2015, I was campaigning on Doyle’s Lane, and a family of constituents expressed a concern about a large pile of construction gravel that had been left behind by CSX after some rail installations had been completed in late May of 2015.
The husband informed me that he had notified CSX about their incorrect installation of an improper type of rail that had been causing the trains to buckle as they passed through the sight of his kitchen window. In response, he phoned CSX and informed them of the need for the rails to be replaced, and after they came in and replaced the rails, they left a large pile of gravel behind at the Doyle’s Lane crossing. This large pile of gravel was causing his wife’s minivan to get caught up in the stone, and it created an extremely dangerous situation which made it even more tenuous for her to safely cross the tracks. She also informed me that she had left eight telephone messages with CSX’s Kingston-based phone number, and that she had never received a return phone call from them. In response, I promised the family that I would contact CSX and attempt to get the problem rectified. As I crossed the tracks myself, I noticed how my car dangerously got caught up in the stone, and I also took note of how dangerous the crossing was because of a very limited line-of-sight of trains coming from the North. At the Doyle’s Lane crossing, motorists only have maybe three-four football fields with which to see southbound trains coming upon them from the north.
On September 11, 2015, I phoned CSX’s Florida office, and I informed an employee about the dangerous situation at the Doyle’s Lane crossing. In response, the employee told me that a notation would be made within CSX’s computer system, and that I would be mailed a letter as would the three residences along Doyle’s Lane. I did in fact promptly receive a letter of recognition from CSX, but after a follow up contact with the constituent at Doyle’s Lane, they informed me that they never received a similar letter. One month after my contact with CSX’s Florida-based offices, the railroad crossing had not been addressed by CSX, and the constituent informed me that she had notified them again herself. In response, I promised her that I would make a more spirited effort to correct the situation! On Columbus Day 2015, I once again contacted CSX’s Florida’s office, and I exerted some heavy pressure on CSX in a request for them to come in and address the situation at the Doyle’s Lane crossing. Within one week, CSX came in and removed the gravel and paved over the crossing.
During the coverage of this most recent tragedy, information has emerged about Town Government’s efforts to make these intersectional railroad crossings safer along the Kings Highway corridor and how the response of CSX has been inexcusably slow! I again express my condolences to the Whispell family, and hopefully CSX will enact some safety measures to increase the safety along these intersectional crossings across Kings Highway!
Chris Allen, Ulster County Legislature