“There’s always something new I learn by doing a Town Hall meeting,” Congressman Anthony Brindisi said Thursday, Feb. 21 at MVCC.
That night’s Oneida County Town Hall crowd was beginning to disperse. Some people were giving their names and contact information to staffers who he said would follow up on their individual concerns. Others were waiting to shake his hand or speak with him about a concern that they might not have wanted to share in front of the standing-room-only crowd.
Brindisi repeatedly emphasized his bipartisanship and discussed the positions he is taking as moderate with a room full of constituents who often had partisan opinions on issues like reproductive rights, gun control, government spending, and even bipartisanship itself.
Clinton’s Sarah Reeske, one of his most dedicated campaign volunteers and the Upstate New York Organizer for the Indivisible Project expressed a desire to see more than bipartisanship in his public messaging.
“I want into the Town Hall to bring up an issue that probably wasn’t going to be addressed anywhere else,” Reeske said.
“He is a champion of bipartisanship; however, he can do more. I want to see him be a champion of equality, especially gender equality.”
Brindisi is a supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act which will ensure that people doing the same work will receive the same pay regardless of gender.
“I was concerned that he was putting bipartisanship above protecting vulnerable Americans,” Stephen Hampe said.
Hampe who is a member of the Rome City School District Board of Education, observed that on a federal level there has been a push for privatization, “overturning of protections for LGBTQ students,” and threats to Title IX protections which prohibit exclusion or discrimination in educational settings on the basis of sex.
“How do we stop that?” Hampe asked.
“I would like to haul the Education Secretary before the Educational Labor Committee to answer some of those questions,” Brindisi replied to applause.
“I am a big supporter of public education. Public education is a passion of mine. I have children in public schools. I have a wife who is a public educator. So, it is very important to me to support the schools that educate 90% of the children and adults in this country.”
I asked the Congressman what he has done to make good on a promise he made me before the election to do whatever he could to protect the rights of LGBT Americans.
He replied that he is going to be a co-sponsor of the Equality Act (which will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity) when it comes up in this Congress and that he is also a member of the LGBT caucus.
Brindisi also discussed how he is fighting for rural communities like Westmoreland.
“As part of any infrastructure package, I’m going to push for funding of broadband into rural communities. It is an issue across all of upstate New York.”
He is also taking a pro-active stance regarding the problems facing dairy farmers by establishing an Agriculture Advisory Council. During the Town Hall he invited constituents with an interest in agricultural issues (and veteran’s issues) to speak to him, or one of his staff members afterward about serving on one of those committees.
David Halpin, who is running for mayor in Rome, was impressed with Brindisi’s willingness to work with colleagues from both parties.
“Congressman Brindisi is right on target,” Halpin said.
“He shows that he is very much in tune to the facts as they pertain to the district that he represents. I’m impressed that he is holding town hall meetings throughout his district.”
“All I felt going into the Town Hall is that I had been a supporter of his and that I helped to get him elected,” Reeske said afterward. “It was really important to show up because this is the materialization of a lot of hard work. Before he was elected, we haven’t had Town Halls that were open to the public, free, and where the intention was to listen to people’s concerns.”
“I’m not doing anything I didn’t campaign on,” Brindisi pointed out.
“I said during the campaign that I am a moderate. I said that I want to work in a bipartisan fashion. I am doing that now by finding representatives across the aisle and in my own party that I can work with.”
“He was 100 percent respectful, courteous, and accessible,” Reeske observed. “I thought he did a magnificent job engaging with and responding to everybody in the room.”
“After the meeting, I was more comfortable that he does support his constituents and will advocate strongly for us,” Hampe said.
“We’re not going to agree on every single issue,” Brindisi said. “But I’m trying to represent everyone in this district, not just Democrats, not just Republicans. I want to represent everyone.”
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