Despite receiving an invitation, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) did not attend a town hall in Syracuse on Saturday organized by the CNY Solidarity coalition. Those who did attend are urging the central New York Republican to oppose the actions of President Donald Trump’s administration.
It was a large turnout at Nottingham High School. Margaret Luttinger of Liverpool was among them and said a town hall is where citizens should go to voice their concerns to their elected representatives. Katko has said that in-person town halls are attempts to get him in front of an angry crowd and not let him speak.
“I’ve met teachers, scientists, business people, moms, dads, grandparents, young people, older people," Luttinger said. "This is a good representation of who our community is. None of them have behaved in a manner that is inappropriate and until he has any evidence that we’re going to, I don’t know how he can label us that way. And he doesn’t even show up to prove his own point.”
Residents across the 24th Congressional District that came to the town hall said they are worried about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and defunding of Planned Parenthood and questioned how Katko is going to hold Trump accountable. On Friday, Katko released a statement saying his does not support the GOP plan to replace the ACA the way it is currently written.
Gisela von Dran is an immigrant from Germany now living in DeWitt. She said Republicans are abandoning the poor and the sick in favor of tax cuts for the top one percent.
"What I'm seeing now is just everybody trying to undercut everybody else and really just looking out for those who are most able to help themselves and forgetting those who really need a hand up," von Dran said.
Like many others at the town hall, Victoria Stockham of Syracuse said she is scared of Trump's administration and said Katko should have been there to hear their concerns.
"We respect each other's difference but we feel strongly about what this country needs," Stochham said. "He was elected, he needs to listen to his constituents."
Allan Kolsky of Syracuse said it is important Katko hears from them.
“He said he didn’t want to engage in meaningless political theater and it would have been a lot more meaningful if he could have been here today,” Kolsky said.
Katko’s office said the CNY Solidarity Coalition did not consult with them to check the congressman’s availability before scheduling the event.