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Press 1 for the Congressman
Rep. Lee Zeldin, always fearful of providing a video clip for opposition research teams, canceled his April town hall at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. But he and fellow LI Republican Peter King have come up with a substitute: the live telephone town hall.
King can’t seem to master the logistics yet, but Zeldin’s event is at 7 p.m. Thursday. The event may lack a certain personal coziness, though, as 100,000 homes and phones will be called as the meeting begins.
Members of the new group Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin say he’s ducking his constituents. In response, Zeldin spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena says he’s actually ducking protesters. The “new disruption tactics of these liberal obstructionists locally and nationally” are to blame for Zeldin’s shying away from public meetings, she said.
Another group, called Project Free Knowledge in the East End, is not only protesting outside Zeldin’s district office in Riverhead, but also posting videos of their activities. In one of them, protesters hold signs labeled “missing” above a photo of Zeldin. Other signs read, “Hold a town hall!” and “I’m a constituent, not a paid agitator.”
He also has scheduled “mobile office hours” for March 3. During those hours, constituents can sit down with either Zeldin or a staff member for one-on-one conversations. Walk-ins are welcome; no appointment is necessary.
There is no lack of meeting space for Zeldin; the Congregational Church of Patchogue has sent an invitation offering the use of the church as a site for a town-hall meeting.
Two weeks ago, members of Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin marched in Riverhead as they chanted, “We’re friendly and polite. Hear our call; we want a town hall.”
To get on the call list for Thursday night’s phone session, constituents are directed to here, where they can fill out a form.
Lane Filler and Anne Michaud
Meanwhile over in Brooklyn ...
Unlike Zeldin and other Republicans who are wallowing in rough-and-tumble town hall controversies, progressive Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) has basked in the love.
Her staff said Clarke’s Union Temple event on Wednesday drew some 800 people, with many who were turned away sent to the nearby main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to watch video. The crowd was engaged and angry about Donald Trump’s presidency, chanting “Not my president” and asking Clarke what she would do to safeguard immigrants here illegally, for example.
Clarke made sure to note that Democrats were in the minority and could do only so much in that position. But mostly, she agreed with and egged on the crowd, including the possibility of calling for Trump’s impeachment: “It won’t be long.”
When a constituent asked why Clarke wasn’t signed on to New York Rep. Jerry Nadler’s resolution of inquiry concerning Trump conflicts of interest, she said, “Sounds like something I should be on.”
Later, an aide told her that she was already signed on. Clarke announced that and got cheers.
Bump in the road
Breaking logjam in Suffolk
At best, Long Island’s state lawmakers have been lukewarm about letting Suffolk County ask voters whether they want to pay a water usage fee to fund a plan to reduce nitrogen levels. Despite lobbying from environmentalists and the county, the idea has not gained traction in Albany.
Still, Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has filed legislation in the Assembly that would give Suffolk permission to hold the referendum. “It’s a way to break the logjam,” Thiele said. “As long as this is a concept and there isn’t a bill, it’s easy for people to dismiss it. I’m trying to force the issue.”
His bill answers a lot of the criticism cited by opponents. It uses the same lock-box language for money raised that Thiele used in the landmark Community Preservation Fund law. It establishes a 15-member board of trustees, including local elected officials, to administer the new fund. It calls for annual audits. And it says subsequent changes can be done only via another referendum.
Perhaps its best attribute is its existence. Now Long Islanders in the State Senate — in particular, Majority Leader John Flanagan and respected environmentalist Ken LaValle, both Republicans from Suffolk — will have to take positions on the bill, and explain why.