Rep. Tom Reed holds a town hall meeting at the Southside Community Center on Saturday.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Rep. Tom Reed holds a town hall meeting at the Southside Community Center on Saturday.

March 11, 2017

Jeers, Protests Greet Republican Tom Reed in Ithaca

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Claire Forest, who runs the Forest Family Farm near Ithaca’s South Hill, braved the cold to attend a town hall for Rep. Tom Reed (R–N.Y.) early Saturday morning and to protest Reed’s support of hydraulic fracturing because of the effects it would have on her farmland.

“I was supposed to prune my fruit trees today,” she said. “But instead, I’m here.”

Forest’s voice was one of many that rang out at the Southside Community Center, where Reed held the first of four scheduled town halls Saturday. Despite stinging winds and bone-numbing cold, hundreds of constituents and protesters showed up before 6 a.m. to get tickets and waited until doors the to Southside gymnasium opened at 7.

The Southside Community Center was filled with posters and a chanting crowd criticizing the Republican congressman at his town hall meeting.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Southside Community Center was filled with posters and a chanting crowd criticizing the Republican congressman at his town hall meeting.

Reed was met with a crowd of constituents both angry and appreciative inside, including those who insisted on quieting the attendees and letting the congressman speak. As the town hall continued, the crowd grew substantially, topping 500 by the meeting’s conclusion and drowning out his voice with loud boos and chants of “Do your job!”

When Reed entered the gymnasium, he addressed the crowd’s concerns that he might not show up.

“I’ve been here in Ithaca before, I will be in Ithaca again, and I’m here today because I care,” he said. “I care.”

“Do you?” a constituent shouted back.

The remainder of the town hall followed this same pattern; attendees, most of whom were progressive, were given two signs — a green “Agree” sign and a red “Disagree” placard.

At various points, such as when Reed voiced his opposition to single-payer healthcare, or an “all of the above” energy policy, the crowd turned into a sea of red. When audience members voiced support for coverage of people with pre-existing conditions, that sea of red turned green.

The audience stretched their arms up holding signs that read, “Drain the Swamp, Uproot the Reeds,” “Trump Care = Wealth Care,” “Tom Greed: Ruining Our Medicare and Raising Our Property Taxes” and “Who Would Jesus Deport.”

Rep. Reed speaks to his constituents at his second town hall in Ithaca this year.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Rep. Reed was met with furious constituents at his town hall in Ithaca.

Cornell Prof. Chris Schaffer, biomedical engineering, confronted Reed directly, calling President Donald Trump’s new ban “idiotic” and voicing concern over its effect on one of his Iranian students’ ability to travel.

Most of the discussion in the town hall, however, was focused on healthcare policy, and Reed’s support of the Republican Party’s “repeal and replace” plan, which focuses more on subsidizing costs of insurance through tax credits based on age and income brackets, rather than based on the cost of insurance in a given area, as done under the Affordable Care Act.

For Kevin Kowalewski ’17, president of Cornell Democrats, much of the crowd’s exasperation was directed toward the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, which is being rushed through the House of Representatives.

“What they’re trying to do with the Affordable Care Act is simply not acceptable,” he told The Sun. “This massive turnout is emblematic as to how much people actually care about the issue.”

David Halpert, a pediatric neurologist at Cayuga Medical Center, entered the gym toting a sign made by his wife Teresa — “How many lies are too many lies?” — and expressed concern over access to care in rural counties like Tompkins.

David Halpert, an Ithaca neurologist, criticized the proposed Republican health care plan at Reed's town hall.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

David Halpert, an Ithaca neurologist, criticized the proposed Republican health care plan at Reed’s town hall.

From Halpert’s initial question, Reed was jeered and hissed at by the audience as he announced the House’s health care bill. The reforms that will replace the Affordable Care Act will be phased in over the next 12 to 24 months, Reed said, adding refundable tax credits, changes to health savings accounts and removal of tax increases.

Reed said he will also prioritize Medicaid expansion for a transition period, expanding state level discretion on Medicaid programs with a $100 million investment and a switch to per capita-based Medicaid block grants aimed to help patients in low-volume hospitals in rural areas.

His words prompted shouts of disagreement, but Reed retained his unwavering stance.

“Clearly, the Affordable Care Act is not working and we need to move forward,” he said.

Jim Skaley, of Dryden, expressed concern over the stability of his medicare and the cost of his private insurance premiums.

“If the Congressional Budget Office comes out and says that millions of people are going to lose insurance, I’d like to see [Reed] vote no,” he said.

One woman confronted Reed over his desire to defund Planned Parenthood, accusing him of trying to defund the organization based on his personal beliefs, “not based on the beliefs of everybody in [his] constituency.”

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125) joined the dissatisfied crowd, pointing out that New York would lose $3.7 billion every year in health care funding under the new proposal, in addition to a $3 million cut from hospitals and more than $1 million from Tompkins County, where she said 8,000 people depend on Obamacare.

“Insurance exchanges are going to collapse,” she said. “Very quickly, people are going to lose their health insurance.”

Over chants of “represent us!” Reed responded, “I am honored to represent 717,000 people, and each one of those voices is important to me,” before handing the microphone to a more supportive constituent, Thomas Taylor, of Elmira, the only person in the gymnasium wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Thomas Taylor was one of the few supporters of Reed and President Donald Trump in attendance at the town hall.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Thomas Taylor was one of the few supporters of Reed and President Donald Trump in attendance at the town hall.

While Trump supporters were sparse at the meeting, Taylor was not afraid to make his stance known.

“President [Barack] Obama once said that elections have consequences,” Taylor reminded the audience, which repeatedly interrupted him. “Last November, we had an election. The positions of both candidates were very clear.”

“Now, Congressman,” Taylor said, “who are you going to represent? The people who elected you, or the people who lost?”

“Your voice does have an impact on me,” Reed said, met by a scornful laughter, which continued as he discussed his disapproval for a single payer system and his commitment to cutting back environmental regulations in support of the fossil fuel industry.

After Reed took questions from members of the public outside, Nia Nunn, president of the Southside Community Center Board, thanked Reed for attending, and invited him back, “so we can talk about that Muslim ban,” drawing laughs from the crowd.

Asked of Reed’s performance at the town hall meeting, Ivy Greene ’17, vice president of Cornell Democrats, said the congressman’s answers were purposefully unclear.

“We put in the effort to come here and we deserve clear, direct answers to our questions,” she said. “I’m disappointed.”

To Greene, the frustrated chants and interruptions were symptomatic of the lack of transparency and verity in political discourse.

“We are not getting clear answers and true facts from our politicians,” she said.

Greene said that, despite Reed’s stated desire to have a dialogue with constituents, he seemed to purposely avoid a venue that would have accommodated more people. Some Ithacans wanted Reed to host the town hall at the State Theatre, which offered a vastly reduced price to the congressman.

As Reed made his way down Plain Street after the meeting’s end, most of the crowd dispersed to flee the bitter cold.

The few that followed him pressed him on Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, possible cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts and his support for the travel ban.

Asked repeatedly by members of the crowd when he would be returning to Ithaca, Reed’s response was always the same:

“I’ll be back!”

  • Robby

    A few things:
    1. The Cornell Democrats were “disappointed” with his performance? I’m shocked.
    2. I can’t believe Ms. Greene has the audacity to lament political discourse in the country when she went to this event with the primary goal of jeering and yelling at Tom Reed. How about you ask a question, write a letter, and maybe try harder to actually win an election next time around.
    3. The entitlement among some on the left is ridiculous. We live in a district of 716,000 people. He’s doing his job by listening to your concerns, but at the end of the day, the majority in the district likely backs him. The 500 Ithaca leftists are not a representative sample of the entire district. That goes for you, woman who complained about Planned Parenthood defunding. I am quite certain that a plurality of people in this district support defunding Planned Parenthood. A rational person knows they are not the only option for health services, and they seem to be doing just fine on the donation front.
    4. The Cornell Democrats wouldn’t know, because they’ve never hosted a speaker on campus, but State Theatre would be a very dangerous place to hold such an event. The overhang/second deck in the theatre would be a prime place to throw something at Reed. No good.
    5. The Republican health care plan has problems. I’m hoping they will be ironed out. If the CBO releases numbers like those the gentleman cited, I believe Reed would vote against it with no changes. Regardless, yelling at him is not the way to change his mind.

    Thank you for coming to Ithaca, Tom Reed. I’m sorry we’re so crazy.

    • Ezra Tank

      I was going to comment but Robby already did my job.

      It’s tough living in the Ithaca and just being an Independent in the middle.

  • Ithacan

    Robby, you say we’re crazy. If “crazy” means wanting affordable and accessible healthcare for our neighbors, transparency and accountability from our politicians, and voting districts that aren’t gerrymandered….yes, by all means, call us crazy. The question is why don’t YOU support these things, Robby? SMH.

    • Robby

      Crazy because you can’t handle not screaming for one second when you’re around a Republican. I want all of those things, too (Except for the gerrymandering part. Democrats would have gerrymandered just as much if they were actually in power, as evidenced by Maryland. And the GOP still won pluralities in 3/4 of the last elections. Plus a lot of what looks like gerrymandering is just to ensure minority representation. When your voters are concentrated in urban areas, this is bound to happen. When you stop blaming all of your party’s woes on gerrymandering, I’m sure you’ll be much more successful). You. I just have a different philosophy about how to make those things happen. But you’re just vilifying me directly.

      • Ithacan

        Reread your comments, Robby. Be accountable for your stereotypes. If people screamed and yelled, they had a right to do so. Reed made it virtually impossible to have a civil discussion: scheduling a town meeting at 8 am, requiring people to submit questions the day before, requiring tickets to attend, etc. If you’re a Cornell student you won’t remember the many times over the past eight years when republicans engaged in –and normalized–uncivil behavior far worse than the shouts at Reed’s “town hall.”

        • typical liberal crybaby. I cant get up that early, maybe he wanted question before hand so he could give you a honest answer, morons all of you, show respect to people, screaming and yelling is not a civil discussion

          • John

            Yes, calling us morons shows how civil you are. Lol.

        • Robby

          Why can’t I be opposed to both types of “uncivil behavior”? I’m not a partisan hack like you apparently are.

          • John

            Sure you are…..

          • John

            That IS funny. You are clearly delusional.

    • please sponsor someone in need ,,,,didnt think so

  • eliza

    Well put Robby! I was not totally surprised by the mob mentality of the crowd that gathered. What I was surprised at was how much misinformation they had and/or ignorance about the specifics of issues. Also their lack on respect to listen and have a conversation about issues, instead of just behaving…well…like democrats. Most there just wanted to be angry and hear themselves yell. I doubt many of them even vote in any election. Much of the grandstanding was just a big show to tell their friends about. Congressman Reed did a fine job of supportive listening while manitaining a firm stance on his intent. I was impressed. Even as the crowd behaved so poorly, Reed never flinched, remained professional, kind and smart, laying out his views with as much detail as was possible in between the ugly shouting.
    I also hope that our President and administration will get Healthcare worked out into a strong, managable format. I know Obamacare was a nghtmare firsthand. One thing that was not discussed about PP, is that President Trump offered to continue to fund all of PP HEALTHCARE services but NOT abortions, and Cecile Richards and democrats turned him down. I guess it isn’t about healthcare at all as many of you ladies protested.
    When the Congressman arrived I was able to let him know I would be praying for him today and onward. He thanked me and stated he appreciated that. I believe Republicans are seeing hope rise in spiritual strength for America. I believe that Democrats can handle change, be aware of specifics with issues, be willing to discuss, get on board with a united, healthy America and stop leaning on mob mentality they appear to enjoy so much. Violence and anger only leaves us weak. We are all in this together, we all want every American supported and cared for. Together we are strong.

    • j.t.fullard

      The Hyde Amendment forbids the Federal Government from funding abortions already, so Trump did not make any such offer. He offered to fund PP if they stopped offering abortions (which they fund with money that does NOT come from the Federal government). This is essentially blackmail. In January, 2017 a Quinnipiac University National poll found that 69 percent of American voters oppose eliminating Federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

  • Just a embarrassment to Ithaca again. Yelling like 3rd grade morons. This is the reason why nobody wants to DO town meeting anymore.
    How many of the people there are business owners and supply health coverage to their employees? Non I bet.

  • Jason

    Ithaca, 10 squares miles surrounded by reality …. kind of…

    More like, “Ithaca, 10 square miles of marxists surrounded by Republicans.”

    • Rose

      How about having an original idea for a change? Oh…and if you knew any history and political philosophy you’d know your comment is absurd .

  • DJT

    Is this surprising at all, that the regressive left are filled with crybabies who shout and wail until they have it their way?

  • borris batanov

    I only admit I went to Cornell if I have to. (Graduated Cum Laude & am board certified medical specialist.)

    • Rose

      How about returning your scholarship money then? No? Guess your principle only goes so far.

      • borris batanov

        Only got loans, which I paid back. If I had gotten scholarships, tho, I would have deserved them.

        I in no way identify with Cornell conformist, Leftist politics, at least as depicted in the Sun. They’re a straitjacket, totally antithetical to what I went to college for and what I learned.

        Obama is a lying pig (c.f. Animal Farm). I can assure y0u I didn’t become a doctor to amputate a man’s leg to make $30,000, instead of treating his diabetes properly, as Obama accused. Orthopedic surgeons, who do amputations, btw, don’t treat diabetes and make about $5000 per amputation. Obama knows even less about medicine than he does about business or foreign affairs. The lying former Pig-in-Chief only went to 3 years of law school via Affirmative Action, as opposed to 4 years of med school, 4 years of internship & residency, and 1 year of post-grad subspecialty training, a total of 9 years after college.

        • John

          You think you did it all on your own? Keep telling yourself that.

        • John

          No way you are a doctor, Borris or whatever your name is. You post on the SUN at all hours of the day and night. You are a troll who spouts racist , misogynistic bs. Get a life.

  • Disgusted with obamavare

    Do any of those people making a stink have a clue about what it’s actually like to have an OBUMMERCARE plan? Well, I will tell you because my family has one. First of all, my husband and I are in our 40s with 2 kids. I have been seeing the same doctor for 15 years, but was forced to find a new one. Here’s one of the BIG issues- nobody in my area takes the plan except for a doctor in my area that has a horrible reputation. ONLY other choice was to drive 45 minutes to a few other doctors that took my plan. To make matters worse, I developed a seizure disorder and the only neurology group in my area didn’t take the plan either, so in desperation my husband and I decided to pay him out of pocket( even though we’re paying a ton for this plan) It gets worse- he then had to order some tests on me including an MRI and when weeks went by with us calling every day in an attempt to schedule the tests, the office finally called us and told us that the insurance company wasn’t accepting his orders because he was not in network. It’s been a nightmare. Our Obama care plan only allows us access to certain doctors that are not anywhere near us- it’s beyond ridiculous and that is the reality. By the way, our pediatrician is also not on the plan and so we had to scramble around and find a new doctor who also wasn’t near us( not to mention the fact that they loved him and were used to seeing him) so all that crap that came out of Obama’s mouth about keeping your own doctors etc. etc. was a bunch of nonsense and I’ve just giving you a glimpse of what it’s like to have an Obamacare plan. We have been through hell with it. We are not alone either- THIS IS REALITY with Obamacare!!!

  • Ezra Tank

    I can only laugh at the mentally challenged Cornell Professor Chris Schaffer, biomedical engineering, confronted Reed directly, calling President Donald Trump’s new ban “idiotic” and voicing concern over its effect on one of his Iranian students’ ability to travel.

    It’s a temporary ban for 90 days. Get over your liberal self.

    • borris batanov

      Prof. Schaffer no doubt gets a Cadillac health insurance plan for free as part of his benefits and knows absolutely nothing about Obamacare, public health or health care. He should teach his field, instead of shooting off his mouth, imo.

    • Chris Schaffer

      Thank you both for your comments. In my short discussion with Rep. Reed Saturday morning, I did refer to the current travel ban as “idiotic,” and this was probably the most quotable thing I said. More importantly, I talked with Rep. Reed about my specific policy concerns: 1. A broad range of national security experts as well as data on the immigration history of those who have committed terrorist acts in this country indicate that country of origin is not a useful predictor of terrorist risk. So, banning immigration based on country is not going to increase our safety. 2. Both State and DHS have ongoing programs to evaluate and update the vetting procedures that those entering this country submit to. I see no reason to ban immigration for a time to review and appropriately update these procedures. 3. I asked Rep. Reed if he agrees that any changes to immigration policy in the name of national security that emerge from the review currently being conducted should be based on evidence of what actually improves security and should be designed to minimize unintended consequences such as inhibiting international scientific exchange.

      I’m not sure how my personal healthcare plan is relevant, but yes it is a high quality plan that is partially paid for by my employer, Cornell University.

      In terms of teaching in my field, I do actually teach a course here at Cornell on science policy.

      • John you made about 6 post and you call others trolls? Or none civic? Reread you hateful post
        Easy solution STOP all immigration

  • Cu

    These uncivil liberal mobs are intimidating but also appalling to non-liberals and undecideds. Contributes greatly to republicans winning election after election over the past decade (with Obama being the notable exception that obscured the overall trend). Those of you who are behaving in an uncivil manner are your own worst enemy.

  • alan

    Once again, Reed has shown himself to be a gutless wonder. Shamed by his absence from town halls, he just announced that he will appear at 4 of them on April 1 next.But, each one is slated to be only one hour long and each is to be held in a locality much smaller than any of the 5 places where Reed has a District Office. He might have considered Antarctica, but if he did he might have discovered that about 100 people came to a Women’s protest demonstration thereon January 19.

    • Alan your a moron. I would not show up if I got heckled all the time either . We dont all believe you stupid point. Typical Liberal. If I dont get my way I riot