Cornell students attend Reed's controversial town hall meeting on Saturday.

Courtesy of Hayden Waller

Cornell students attend Reed's controversial town hall meeting on Saturday.

February 23, 2017

Cornell Students Travel Across State to Protest Reed at Town Hall Meetings

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A group of Ithaca residents and Cornell students attended Rep. Tom Reed’s (R-N.Y.) town hall meetings Saturday Feb. 21 to voice concerns about poor constituent representation, among other political issues.

Reed represents the 23rd District, which includes the western end of southern New York, borders Pennsylvania and predominantly-liberal Ithaca. While the majority of his district consists of Trump-supporting working-class Americans, the town hall meetings were packed with frustrated protesters who disagree with Reed’s views on health care, immigration reform and finance reform.

“There is a growing frustration with Rep. Reed’s seeming avoidance of Tompkins County,” said Nicholas Aflitto grad. “So concerned constituents are taking their questions to him, even though these meetings are two plus hours away.”

The meetings, held in Allen Town, Humphrey, Cherry Creek, and North Harmony, also garnered national coverage from media sources like The New York Times and NPR, which noted the tension between the representative and his constituents. Students like Hayden Waller grad went for the purpose of expressing their frustrations.

“I can only speak for myself,” he said. “But personally, Tom Reed is kind of the antithesis to everything I believe in. I’m on the other side of him for just about every issue.”

Some of the key issues that were raised during these meetings included Reed’s support of defunding Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act, disapproval of the Russian investigation and extensive use of corporate funding for private benefits.

“In general, Tom Reed tends to believe that diverting public funds to private enterprise is the best model in taking care of his constituents and his district,” said Jacob Elias grad. “On top of that, he’s unequivocally against immigrant rights. He’s unequivocally against Planned Parenthood.”

Elias added that Reed seems to him to be concerned primarily with his own interests.

“He has no interest in trying to look into the administration’s potential conflicts of interest, and he’s more interested in maintaining his seat of power and maintaining corporate power rather than public power,” he said.

Elias helped organize the trip to this town hall meeting in order to have some of the constituents’ concerns heard and addressed as well as to let Reed know that a “bulk of his constituents are very unsatisfied.”

“When an African-American woman asked him whether he thought black lives matter, he grabbed a megaphone and proudly shouted out ‘All lives matter,’” Elias reported.

In general, Elias said Reed mostly deflected protesters’ concerns by “lying and saying he agreed before saying the actual substance” which was in “direct discord with the things being requested by his constituents.”

Though Waller believes that Reed is likely not going to change his mind about any issues, he noted that simply knowing that constituents’ concerns were being heard was “satisfying.”

Both participants believe that it is important for Cornell students to be involved in the political process through events like these town hall meetings.

“Cornell students can change the entire district,” Waller said. “If they were willing to register to vote in this county, they would be able to vote against guys like this. In the end what really matters is the votes, so if I could send a message it would be to get registered and vote against these types of ideas.”

Elias noted that he plans on continuing to organize with other people to be more involved in the political process.

“I was very satisfied by the views of the vocal majority at the meeting,” Elias said. “I was incredibly dissatisfied with the views of the powerful minority, which was Tom Reed and his staffers. I think continuing to show up at town hall is really important, [along with] being vocal and visible and thoughtful.”

  • Now you have the picture of the disruptive people. He is there to speck. not get heckled.

    • Hobomagic

      I’m not sure what ‘specking’ is, but I’m pretty sure he is there to listen to his constituents.

  • Jasper Ralph

    Reed is no fool.

    Most of the rest of his conservative district detests Ithaca progressives. In fact, Reed won two elections specifically by painting his Ithaca-based opponents as “Extreme Ithaca Liberals.”

    He is going to to go with the wishes of the majority of his district, not a progressive minority in the far-eastern corner of the district.

    And, let’s face it: Ithacan’s don’t want Reed here for a real dialogue. They want to stage a scene to get themselves media coverage and create a false narrative that the marjority of Reed’s district opposes Trump.

  • Ezra Tank

    He doesn’t represent you or he doesn’t represent YOUR ideas? Huge difference snowflakes. Guess what, most counties in this country have different views than you. And please don’t use the weak argument that Clinton won the popular vote. We live in a Democratic Republic where EVERY area gets represented via the Electoral College. It has been that way since our country’s inception and if you cannot understand why the Electoral College is brilliant you really shouldn’t be attending an Ivy League University. You only care about YOUR views.

    And guess what students you are VISITORS here at Cornell that just happens to be in a very liberal town. You will be gone in 4 years, but to those of us that live in this area the crap your liberal professors are “teaching” you isn’t the real world. There is a reason T-shirts that say “10 miles surrounded by reality” exist. Even this article points out that a majority of Tom Reeds district is conservative. I’m glad you were able to take time off from school to “protest” Tom Reed and pretend that you are a majority of his district but the rest of us were busy WORKING.

    In 10 years when you have a spouse, two kids, a job, a mortgage, a car payment, retirement to save for, and kids college to pay for get back to me with your “world” views. You’ll be shocked to see how much they’ve changed.

    But this article talks out of both sides of the mouth:

    “Some of the key issues that were raised during these meetings included Reed’s support of defunding Planned Parenthood” …

    Then someone else says, “In general, Tom Reed tends to believe that diverting public funds to private enterprise is the best model in taking care of his constituents and his district,” said Jacob Elias grad. “On top of that, he’s unequivocally against immigrant rights. He’s unequivocally against Planned Parenthood.”

    What do you think Planned Parenthood is? It’s a private organization that receives federal money. Ugh.

    And for the One millionth time NO ONE IS AGAINST IMMIGRATION. No one is against taking away rights (not even Trump) to LEGAL immigrants. WHY IS THAT SO HARD FOR LIBERALS TO SEE?

    Legal = good.
    Illegal = bad.

    Then the article drifts back to identity politics with the BLACK LIVES MATTER reference. His answer was spot on. ALL LIVES MATTER.

    STOP PUTTING PEOPLE IN BOXES. I know that is what Cornell is teaching you to do but it’s just NOT correct.

    Listen to Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech and tell me if he only wanted people to care about BLACK LIVES. Nope he said:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    MLK was smart enough to realize you can’t blame the past. You must look ahead and not walk alone. To simply say BLACK LIVES MATTERS is noninclusive. Of course Black lives matter, but every life matters. Again if you can’t see the faults in your slogan then you’re just being selfish.

    Remember these representatives represent EVERYONE, not just YOUR views. Sometimes the other view wins sometimes it doesn’t.

    • Jacob Elias

      Hi Evan Tank. I appreciate your strong views. I agree with some of them, for example about how the opinions of Ithaca’s transient student population dominates dialogue at least within this municipality. I’d really like to talk about some of these things. I’d even buy you a beer or a coffee. Please look me up.

      • Jacob Elias

        Sorry, I meant Ezra Tank.

  • Lizzie B

    Angela Chon,
    Two questions about your second graf:
    — Where is your evidence that a majority of the 23rd District consists of “Trump-supporting working-class Americans”? Americans, I’ll give you, are the majority. But I don’t know how you could know that a majority of residents of the District support Trump. Given voter turnout rates, I doubt that a majority of adult District residents even *voted* for him, which is a different question from supporting his actions since he took the office. Secondly, a majority of the residents are working-class? How do you define that? And how do you know that all the working-class voters are also Trump supporters? White people with higher incomes and more education voted for Trump at similar or higher rates than white people with lower incomes and less education.
    This sentence reeks of sloppy reliance on right-wing spin.

    — Why do you characterize the town-hall attendees as “protesters”? They are frustrated constituents, yes. They attended a town hall, the sole purpose of which is for an elected representative to hear feedback from and share information with the people he represents. That’s the purpose of the town hall, and that’s what the attendees went for. Engaging in the democratic process is not the same as protesting, though both are legitimate means of expressing oneself in a free society.

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