Daily Freeman News|February 9, 2017|Patricia R. Doxsey
U.S. Rep. John Faso has only been in office for five weeks, but already he’s holding a major fundraiser.
Meanwhile, area activists say they can’t get the freshman lawmaker to hold a town hall meeting to hear from his constituents.
Representatives of Citizens Action of New York and other groups have been pressing Faso, R-Kinderhook, since he took office to hold a public forum to discuss plans to dismantle and replace the Affordable Care Act.
While members of Faso’s staff have met on numerous occasions with representative groups of people in his local office, activists say the new congressman himself has yet to meet with them. And, they say, he has flat out refused to hold any public meetings.
“In terms of trying to get Rep Faso to show up at a town hall meeting or public meeting, his staff, they don’t even say, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ they just shrug it off,” said Eve Fox, a volunteer with Citizens Action. “There’s never been any response. They don’t commit to anything, even getting back to us.”
A Feb. 6 online post by the Affordable Care Task Force of the Columbia County Democratic Committee stated that during a meeting with Faso, task force members suggested he hold town hall meetings to help reassure people “that moderate Republican voices existed to help offset [President Donald] Trump’s extreme and dangerous policies.”
“Faso expressed his concern for live meetings, with their risk of major disruptions and distorted coverage,” the post stated.
Faso did meet recently with a group of protesters who marched on his Kinderhook home, but Fox said people shouldn’t have to use such tactics to get an audience with their congressman.
“People should not have to show up at his house. He should have a way of talking publicly to people,” Fox said. “He does a lot of radio and TV, but that’s not what we’re looking for.
“We would really like to have a public meeting,” she said.
Faso’s office declined two requests for a telephone interview with the congressman or a representative, and it declined in an email to address directly claims that Faso won’t hold a public meeting to discuss the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
In an email, Faso’s communication’s director, Courtney Weaver, stated: “The congressman is more than happy to meet with constituents. He spoke at the [Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce] recently. He is meeting with people all the time.”
The Chamber of Commerce event was a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting on Jan. 18. Although open to the public, the audience was made up predominately of business and community leaders, and there was a $35 charge for nonmembers to attend.
Weaver also said Faso offered to meet with representatives of Citizens Action of New York on Feb. 23, a day before the group hosts a town hall meeting it was hoping Faso would attend. Weaver said Faso had a “previously scheduled event in a different part of the district” at that time and would be unable to attend.
Fox said the group planned the town hall event and invited Faso to attend in hopes of drawing the congressman to the community.
“These are unprecedented times,” she said. “People are scared and they’re worried, and they want to let their elected representative know that.”
“He needs to be talking with the people with whom this [health care] law most affects,” said Monica Youn, who, along with about 15 other people from New York’s 19th Congressional District, is to meet with a Faso aide Friday in Washington.
Among the issues Youn said the group will address with Faso’s aide is the congressman’s apparent unwillingeness to hold a town hall meeting.
“It’s worriesome,” she said.
Faso is scheduled to attend a major fundraiser Feb. 22 at the Fort Orange Club in Albany. The 1199 SEIU labor union and others are expected to demonstrate at that event to call for Faso to commit to affordable health care for all.
In a press release announcing the rally, Phil Markman, a member of Citizen Action of New York said, “The rich people inside this fundraiser are interested in one thing — making more profit — no matter the cost to our communities.
“If Representative Faso wanted to represent his constituents, he’d be out here listening to the needs of voters, not in there listening to those who can afford to write him a $2,700 check,” Markman said.
Weaver declined to comment on the fundraiser, referring those questions to Faso’s campaign.
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Editor’s note, 1:30 p.m., Feb. 10, 2017: An earlier version of this article stated attempts by the Freeman to reach U.S. Rep. John Faso were unsuccessful. The Freeman asked to speak by phone with either Faso or a representative; Faso’s communications director did respond via email.