Healthcare, student loan forgiveness and President Donald Trump’s tax returns were among the issues addressed by Congressmember Dan Donovan on Monday, April 17 when he dialed into nearly 50,000 households within his district lines for his second tele-town hall of the year.
On the line, Donovan, whose district encompasses Staten Island as well as a swathe of South Brooklyn which includes Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, fielded questions for close to an hour, during which, his office says, he was connected to 13,424 people on both sides of the Verrazano.
The pol also used the platform to plug a number of bills he is currently pushing – including one that would raise the penalty for drug dealers peddling Fentanyl and another that would make it illegal to be shipped a pill presser without proper authorization — as well as poll participants on issues such as the Affordable Care Act and on whether or not they support how President Donald Trump has spent his first few months in office.
Issues raised in between by residents varied from funding for Planned Parenthood and the environment to the handling of South Brooklyn’s opioid addiction epidemic and the politician’s stance on the country’s current involvement in North Korea (“North Korea has to be dealt with,” Donovan stressed).
One subject that was revisited often was Donovan’s stance on the now-tabled replacement plan for the ACA, the American Health Care Act.
“My goal in repairing our broken healthcare system is to help the people who were harmed by [the ACA] without harming the people who were helped by it,” said the pol, who was thanked more than once on the line by phone-ins who were happy about his opposition to the plan. “I still think we can do that. I just don’t think that the replacement plan that was put forth is something that would’ve accomplished that.”
The tele-town hall itself was also highlighted as an issue by one Bay Ridge resident.
While the method of communication has received some push-back from constituents claiming to have had issues dialing in, or from those who have argued that the tele-town halls – which are primarily promoted online and on social media — leave a number of the pol’s constituents in the dark, Donovan has contended time and time again that the practice is the most effective way to ensure “clear communication.”
“I’ve always said that being a representative in elective office means that you have to listen to the people, and this is a great way for me to hear directly from you about your concerns, answer your questions and [for you to] let me know what’s important to you and your family,” Donovan said in his introduction, later using the same argument to support his decision not to attend what organizers referred to as a “constituent-organized” District 11 town hall planned for Wednesday evening, April 19 in Bay Ridge, referring to events of its kind as “disruptive forums.”
“The last time we did one of these tele-town halls, 14,000 families listened for an hour, there was no disruption, everybody got to express their concern without people interrupting,” he said, noting also that, in the 10 days prior to the tele-town hall, he had met with over 100 constituents for one-on-one meetings, another method he supports. “I find this to be a much more effective way of communicating and having my residents communicate with me, rather than just going to a town hall and having people shout at one another.”
When asked whether or not he will be able to speak up against President Trump for things that are not advantageous to his constituency, Donovan said simply, “The people of the 11th Congressional District are my priority.”