About 400 people showed up at a Town Hall on Preserving Democracy to share opinions and ask questions of Congress Member John Katko – who wasn’t there.
People voiced concerns about health care and not wanting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, about funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning services, about climate change and other environmental concerns, about education, and about honesty of the President.
Rep. Katko was invited to the meeting, held at Nottingham High School and organized by the CNY Solidarity Coalition. The group says they were told he was unavailable. Some of the more than 50 speakers addressed questions directly to the Congress member, while others shared concern about issues.
A number of the speakers sought Katko’s positions on specific legislation before the house. Bills were brought up such as HR 669 which would prohibit a first-strike use of nuclear weapons without an act of congress; HR 1452 that would prevent any taxpayer money spent at properties owned by the President; pulling Title 10 funding, earmarked for family planning, from Planned Parenthood.
Speakers identified themselves as teachers, engineers, doctors, human service workers and retired residents. Several speakers said they are republicans and a few there claimed they voted for Katko.
The entire 2-hour town hall was recorded by the CNY Solidarity Coalition, which is intending to deliver it to Katko in hopes of him or his staff viewing it. The group would like to get responses to the issues discussed, ideally hearing Katko’s positions on the issues or bills. That sentiment was echoed by a number of the speakers, some of whom addressed a sign set up at the front of the auditorium saying, “Rep. John Katko Unavailable.”
The issue of congress members attended town hall meetings has become a controversial one, with instances of crowds shouting down representatives. Katko has expressed concern that if he attended such meetings they would be less focused on issues and dialogue and more a chance to have heated exchanges.
Katko says he conducts telephone meetings with constituents, and is willing to meet with constituents in his office. He has so far not responded to an offer for WAER to moderate a town hall. Katko has a public meeting planned next Thursday in Oswego, focused on the issue of heroin and synthetic drugs. The CNY Solidarity Coalition is considering future town halls, to which Katko would be invited.