Organizers to set up empty chair on stage
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Deep concerns over the policies of President Donald Trump, coupled with a belief that their local representative isn’t standing up to him, are the impetus behind a constituent town hall that Brooklyn political activists are planning to hold in Bay Ridge.
The group Fight Back Bay Ridge is the lead organization responsible for the planning of the NY 11 Town Hall to take place April 19, at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th St., at 7 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island), who represents New York’s 11th Congressional District, has not yet held an in-person town hall meeting with constituents in Brooklyn since his election in 2015. The lawmaker has held a number of telephone town halls with residents and has met with constituents in small groups in his office.
Organizers of the NY 11 Town Hall said they invited the Republican lawmaker to their meeting but that his office has informed them that he will not be coming.
Fight Back Bay Ridge plans to place an empty chair on a dais and leaving it there during the town hall to illustrate Donovan’s absence.
Mallory McMahon, one of the founders of Fight Back Bay Ridge, told the Brooklyn Eagle that holding a town hall and engaging constituents in person is part of a Congress member’s job and that if Donovan won’t do his job, “then we’ll do his job for him.”
Fight Back Bay Ridge was born in the aftermath of Trump’s election in November by local residents who were upset by the results of the presidential contest.
The town hall is expected to touch on a number of topics that have been brought to the forefront since Trump moved into the White House: immigration, health care, gender equality, housing, the Supreme Court and the environment.
Trump’s immigration ban, his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his successful effort to get Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court are all sources of deep concern to many people in Donovan’s congressional district, according to McMahon.
She would like to see Donovan, who said that he would have voted against the bill to repeal the ACA, stand up to his fellow Republican Trump more forcefully on other issues. Charging that many of the actions taken by the president are “terrifying,” she said her message to Donovan is that these are not the times “for normal party politics.”
Initiated by Fight Back Bay Ridge, the NY 11 Town Hall was organized in collaboration with Bay Ridge Democrats, South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance and Staten Island Women Who March.
Several organizations have signed on to co-sponsor the town hall including CAIR, New York State Nurses Association, Staten Island 4 Change/ Organizing for Action, The Jericho Project, Veterans for Peace and the Arab American Family Support Center.
Registration for the town hall is recommended. For more information, visit ny11townhall.com/
Patrick Ryan, Donovan’s spokesman, said the motives of the town hall’s organizers are suspect.
“The true intentions of these protest groups is finally coming to light. Their goal is to create a media and fundraising spectacle instead of engaging in substantive conversations,” Ryan told the Eagle.
“The fact is, Congressman Donovan has and will continue to meet with every single person who requests a meeting. He’s met with the founders and members of Fight Back Bay Ridge, as well as other progressive Brooklyn and Staten Island organizations. He's hosting conference calls that go out to 50,000 households. He's holding Facebook Live events with local journalists. The facts just don't support their ridiculous claims,” Ryan said.
Constituents who want to meet with Donovan should visit the lawmaker’s website at donovan.house.gov/