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Letter: Zeldin town halls were shams

To The Editor:

Town hall meetings are traditionally held to allow constituents to address their concerns with their elected officials. Dialogue is generally encouraged at these meetings which are publicized in order to allow concerned citizens the opportunity to attend and participate. As such, Congressman Lee Zeldin’s meetings on Sunday April 23 were shams.

Congressman Zeldin announced last-minute town halls with the clear intention of being able to say he scheduled them while at the same time guaranteeing a minimum turnout. In spite of his efforts to control the optics the small room at SCCC was filled — mainly with the opposition. This was amazing since most attendees did not receive any emails from the congressman’s office. One can only wonder what the turnout would have been if there had been proper notice.

Attendees were not given the opportunity to ask questions. Questions had to be written out and were then “read” by the Republican Comptroller of Suffolk County, John Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy summarized the questions – putting his own editorial spin on them. A non-partisan moderator should have been running the meeting. Only one hour was allotted for the meeting. Considering the amount of dissent in the country today this was a ridiculously inadequate amount of time.

A hostile tone was set from the beginning of the meeting when the lights over the audience were turned off. Attendees asked for the lights to be turned back on and the same group who had just turned the lights off pretended that they did not know how to turn them back on. Obviously Mr. Zeldin did not wish to see his constituents, or allow them to be seen by the media. Comments made by some Zeldin supporters on social media indicate that one of his supporters adjusted the air conditioning at one of the events to make attendees uncomfortable. Welcome to alternative democracy in the age of Trump!

Mr. Zeldin then began a lengthy monologue about his legislative accomplishments, eating into the time available for questions. Since only a one-hour meeting was scheduled, attendees became irritated. Expression of dissatisfaction led to more time being wasted as the audience was chastised.

Mr. Zeldin avoided direct answers – just talked around the issues and his positions. He did take time to reiterate his previous statements that he does not represent people who called for impeachment on inauguration day. Mr. Zeldin should remember that he represents everyone in this district whether he agrees with them or not. He might also consider the fact that people’s sentiments about Mr. Trump are directly related to Mr. Trump’s conduct and rhetoric. Among many other transgressions Mr. Trump has instigated violence against protestors at his rallies and encouraged a hostile foreign government to spy on his opponent. He is currently using the presidency as an opportunity to promote his brand.

Prior to the election respected members of the Republican Party were outspoken in their assessment of Mr. Trump’s abilities. There was a general consensus that he was completely unqualified to be president. Yet Mr. Zeldin shows no understanding, offers no olive branch – to his own constituents!Mr. Zeldin needs to stop “snarking” at his constituents and start holding his party’s disastrous leader to some standards.

We are a deeply divided country. We need leaders who will reach out to be inclusive to all viewpoints. The rhetoric and “we won” mentality will not heal us. I have heard many Republicans make the comment “elections have consequences.” This is a common statement made by victors of both parties. My guess is that this election and the outrage it engendered will indeed lead to short-term consequences that favor the Republican Party. If Republican officials don’t find a way to reach out to moderate and progressive Americans I believe the long-term consequences will in fact turn the tide in a decisive way.

Barbara A. Wasilausky