On Saturday, October 14, Congressman Tom Reed held a town hall meeting in Romulus, part of a three-day bus tour to meet with constituents in the Southern Tier. The event was expected to be tense, with many Ithaca residents in attendance to voice their opposition to Tom Reed’s policies. Upon arriving at Romulus Central School, attendees entered a small cafeteria, passing two police officers standing at the ready. The majority of the people attending the town hall meeting were senior citizens who hoped to protest Republican healthcare legislation and propose better solutions. A small group of advocates arrived later on, holding signs that read “I Stand with Planned Parenthood.” At the tables were slips of paper to write a question or comment to be addressed by Tom Reed, US Representative for the 23rd Congressional District.
Before Congressman Reed arrived, Eddie Sundquist, a Democratic candidate for New York’s Representative, walked around the tables introducing himself with the line, “Hi, I’m running against Tom Reed in 2018.” Sundquist spoke about his background as a lawyer and teacher, and some of his focuses such as unemployment from the loss of big manufacturing, building solar and wind farms, his support for Medicare, and solving the opioid crisis. He was sure to distance himself from Reed’s conservative policies, and many attendees cheered after his talk. Max Della Pia, another Democratic opponent of Reed, introduced himself to residents after the meeting was finished.
Reed arrived late from his town hall meeting in Candor, and started by asking the crowd to rise and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He thanked everyone for coming, and said he looked forward to having a “respectful dialogue” with the crowd. Reed then began by speaking about his main focuses such as tax reform and his stance on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. After this brief introduction to his policies, he moved on to addressing the written questions from the meeting attendees.
The first question he addressed was whether he supported the president’s recent executive order “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” Reed fully endorsed the executive order, stating his belief in the benefits of the reimbursement system, which he thinks will improve the quality of healthcare. Reed then opened the floor to questions from the audience, and he was asked to expand on his idea of “better care.” Reed’s response included rewarding providers for “treatment provided in a quicker and more efficient manner,” getting subjective feedback from the patients’ and doctors’ perspectives, and penalizing providers who do not meet quality and customer satisfaction standards.
Reed was met with a strong negative response from the audience. One woman quoted Bernie Sanders’s strong denunciation of the Republican healthcare plan. Her response aroused the crowd, inciting a long applause. Reed tried to move from the heated conversation by addressing another person from the crowd, who represented people in the Bahamas, an island group hit by five recent hurricanes. He wanted Reed to meet with a small group to fill the post of an ambassador to the Bahamas, which he believed would better the economy of the Bahamas and upstate New York. He was met with no real confirmation of action from Reed.
The topic at hand was then inevitably switched to a discussion of President Trump. When asked if he had any concerns with the president’s competency, Reed responded, “No I do not,” and stated he had “respect for his relationship with the president.”
Another area of conflict for the meeting was centered around gun control. Reed was presented with a petition for stronger gun control legislation from Tim Willard, a resident of Newfield and member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. It stated, “We need to keep the more powerful firearms in the possession of police, reduce the presence of firearms in public, help gun owners be more vigilant about gun safety, and keep firearms out of the hands of irresponsible individuals.” Reed did not stray from his stance of full support of the Second Amendment, saying, “I think that restricts a lot of law abiding citizens way too far.” When asked about semi-automatic weapons, Reed responded, “That’s a completely separate issue. Are you saying I shouldn’t have my gun?” This was met with a resounding “yes” from the crowd, and debate over gun control continued with arguments for and against stricter gun laws, the majority of the audience advocating for the former. Reed eventually ended the discussion, saying he needed to move on to his next meeting in Urbana.
The Romulus Town Hall Meeting allowed constituents to voice their concerns and frustrations over issues of contention such as healthcare and gun control. While this did provide constituents with an outlet and forum for discussion, it is difficult to say that any real progress or change was made. Reed simply reaffirmed his solidified stances, while straying away from discussion regarding the controversial issues that were brought before him.