Thursday, October 27, 2011

Electeds meet their constituents in West Bronx town meeting

Here's a story from this week's Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh 

Engel courts future voters at the town hall meeting Sunday.
Stray cats, street repairs, the millionaires’ tax and much more were brought up in during a ‘meet and greet’ with local elected officials last week at Vladek Hall.

In the first of four town hall meetings, residents were able to spend some one-on-one time with their local elected officials, a change from the typical town halls where residents fire off questions publicly and the officials respond in an open forum.

Rep. Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, state Senator Gustavo Rivera and City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell spoke with their constituents on a variety of issues Sunday afternoon in one of the Amalgamated Houses.

“People brought up a lot of local issues,” Dinowitz said after the gathering. “Some people talk to us about more national issues. They’re very pro-Democrat and want Obama to be stronger in his fight to get bills passed, his fight with Republicans. We got a lot of that: Obama needs to be tougher with Republicans.”

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A staff member for Rivera said the meeting was a huge success mainly because the rookie state senator had all of his community affairs staffers at the meeting, so when an issue was brought up to Rivera he was able to direct them to the person that would be helping them.

Constituents applauded Rivera for his advocacy on continuing the millionaires’ tax and passing marriage equality while also bringing up local issues of stray cats in Van Cortlandt Village and curb cuts and other street repairs all throughout the neighborhood. Rivera could be overheard spreading some political gossip, something he promised to do more of at his civics classes he’s been teaching throughout his 33rd Senate district.

One last town hall meeting is being held in the area Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at 7:30 p.m. A meeting was also held Monday, Oct. 24 to discuss local issues and an environmentally focused meeting was held Tuesday, Oct. 25.

“We feel the best way we can serve is to have these town hall meetings and meet and greets,” Engel said, who used his time at the meet and greet to attack the Republican Party and explain how difficult they have been recently.

“There has been an onslaught in Washington by the Republicans to try to kill all the programs,” Engel said. “I say they are trying to repeal the 20th century,” referencing how the GOP has expressed interest in making cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other safety nets, all while protecting the 1%.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay a little more,” he said.

Yolanda Olsen, who teaches science at the Marble Hill School, came to the meeting with her two children and spoke with Engel, a former teacher himself, in hopes of getting the 12-term congressman to speak at her school. Engel was able to direct her to one of his staff members to try and coordinate a time.

Koppell cited Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cuts to city services over the last few years, saying his primary goal is to restore those cuts and continue providing basic city services such as library hours and baseline educational services.

“My roll as your council person is to make sure the services we all need from the city…are provided,” he said. “We fight very hard in the council in the difficult economic environment we’re in to maintain those services.”

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