The elephant in the room – wasn’t.
Attendees at a political forum sponsored by the Bay Ridge Council on Aging criticized Bay Ridge’s Republican/Conservative Congressmember Dan Donovan, for having missed the debate held on the morning of October 5 at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway – the second such forum that Donovan has been absent from in the neighborhood in the past couple of weeks.
Donovan is being challenged for his post representing the 11th Congressional District, comprised of all of Staten Island and a swathe of southwest Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gravesend, by Democrat Richard Reichard as well as Green Party candidate Henry Bardell.
“For the congressman who represents us not to show up is shameful,” asserted local activist Frankie Marra, who at one point during the event identified himself as a Democrat. “It’s an insult to this community,” he continued, contending that Donovan’s absence showed “a total disregard for the senior citizens here.”
“It’s the second time I’ve been at a community meeting where Mr. Donovan did not show up,” added another attendee.
The prior forum, sponsored by the Bay Ridge Community Council and held on the evening of Tuesday, September 27, occurred while Congress was still in session. The House of Representatives has been in recess since Thursday, September 29.
This time, a spokesperson for Donovan’s campaign said, he had a “scheduling conflict” as he was attending the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation’s Health Expo, where he was the keynote speaker. The keynote speech was given from 9 to 10 a.m.
“The congressman regretted that he was unable to attend,” said campaign Spokesperson Jessica Proud, who told this paper that at that event, “he outlined his efforts for combating the opioid epidemic and previewed his anti-fentanyl legislation that will be unveiled Tuesday. He wishes he could have been there and invites anyone with questions or in need of assistance to call or visit his Brooklyn office.”
Donovan’s record on drug issues when he was district attorney of Staten Island was called into question at the forum, with Reichard saying that the GOPer hadn’t done enough to cope with the burgeoning heroin and prescription drug epidemic.
Other issues that were discussed were the economy and the future of Medicare and Social Security. “If you want to preserve Medicare and Social Security,” Reichard told the crowd, “vote for me.”
“The economy really is in crisis,” said Bardell, who blamed Democratic and Republican policies, adding, “People are not getting enough money to buy back what’s being produced.” Also “in crisis,” said Bardell, is the environment, and he called for investments in renewable energy.
In addition, Reichard contended that the federal government needs “to invest in infrastructure” because the “infrastructure in the country is falling apart. We also need to invest in new technology” and “in making college more affordable. Cost should be a barrier to getting a college education.”
To make improvements, he said, he would like to see the tax code revamped, by closing loopholes currently used by the wealthy and corporations. “I want to take money from those at the top who are not paying their fair share,” Reichard said.
Both Reichard and Bardell called for changes to the country’s health care system. But, while Bardell said he favored a single payer system, Reichard said that wasn’t realistic. Instead, he said, he “support[s] the public option.
“I don’t think the country is ready for single payer. I do think the public option is doable,” he told the crowd.