Katko Responds to Calls for More Town Hall Meetings in New York’s 24th District, Stresses “Constituent Services”

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK –  U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) released the following statement concerning the importance of constituent services to New York’s 24th Congressional District:

“As Central New York’s representative in Congress, I have focused on being an accessible, independent voice for our community.  I have met with thousands of NY-24 individuals and families, small business owners, farmers, veterans, and community organizations since being sworn in to represent our district in January 2015.  During that time, my office has responded to nearly 64,000 constituent letters, emails and phone calls.  I’ve hosted 6 community listening sessions and numerous telephone town hall events.  With my support, NY-24 has been awarded millions of dollars in federal grants, and I’ve been able to ensure that nearly $2 million dollars owed in federal benefits were returned to Central New York residents.  When my constituents contact me or my office, we listen, and we focus on getting results and representing you in the most effective way possible.

Accused of being disruptive.

“Because I enjoy and value interaction with Central New Yorkers, I’m distressed by the efforts of a small number of people to create disruptions that make such interaction more difficult.  Over the course of the past month, a national political movement called ‘Indivisible’ has developed across the country.  This is a group fueled by outside, progressive interests.   While many involved with this movement claim to be interested in productive, public discourse with their federal representatives, the ‘Indivisible’ playbook instructs just the opposite.  It suggests ‘Indivisible’ members bombard Members of Congress with phone calls and encourages disruptive behavior at townhall meetings and district events, specifically instructing individuals to ‘object as loudly and powerfully as possible,’ warns they must ‘be prepared to interrupt,’ and encourages ‘booing’ and ‘chanting.’  In several forums in other parts of the country, ‘Indivisible’ followers have dutifully followed this playbook, and have turned opportunities for constructive engagement between citizens and their representatives into unruly spectacles where constructive engagement is impossible. 

“Here in Central New York, multiple progressive organizations have aligned themselves with the national ‘Indivisible’ movement.   I respect the right of these groups to peacefully assemble, meet, and protest.  I appreciate their passion.  I have spoken with numerous CNY ‘Indivisible’ members, and invited them to meet regularly with my office to ensure their concerns are heard.  Having spoken with several of these individuals, I have seen that many of them are sincere, and truly want to engage in a constructive conversation.  I have and will continue to make myself available to such individuals.  Unfortunately, others have made very clear that their foremost goal is to cause disruptions.  They have harassed members of my staff with threatening and aggressive phone calls and office visits.  Some behavior has even led to security concerns.  While we work with Capitol Police and local law enforcement, this behavior impedes our ability to serve.

“I will not allow a national outside group to hijack service to my district or disrupt meaningful engagement with my constituents.  Let me be clear:  These individuals are preventing members of my staff from helping refugees, senior citizens, and veterans.  By flooding my office with hundreds of calls and holding regular protests, they are only hurting their neighbors – veterans in need of VA Hospital care, seniors dependent on Social Security and Medicare, individuals facing pressing immigration matters, and local organizations seeking to apply for federal grants. 

“We live in a politically charged time.  I work every day to heal our divide and bring our country and community together.  I have a record of working across the aisle, and getting things done for my district.  I will always make myself available to my constituents.  All 708,000 of them.  I will also represent them equally.  A farmer in Wayne County or steel worker in Auburn matter just as much to me as an enraged ‘Indivisible’ member.

“I have and will continue to engage in an ongoing dialogue with the constituents that I represent across Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne, and Oswego Counties.  But I will not allow a small, yet vocal, group dictate the terms on which I do so.”

Congressman John Katko represents the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga, and Wayne Counties and the western portion of Oswego County.  For more information, please visit https://katko.house.gov or www.facebook.com/RepJohnKatko.

Editor’s Note: Congressman John Katko’s statement is in response to the demand by some, that Congressman Katko host more Town Hall Meetings. A group calling itself, “Indivisible” has become the opposite twin of the Tea Party, where interrupting Town Hall Meetings regarding the Affordable Care Act became their reason for living.  Those meeting were contentious and did not allow people to have an honest debate about the scope and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It was Chaotic. Katko has focused on the delivery of “Constituent Services” and has been independent of some party line votes. With this national movement, Katko’s longevity in Congress will depend on his ability to deliver and respond to constituent services and concerns that may not be so pleasant to hear.