“This Friday, July 28, nine members of our Indivisible Ulster Faso Fridays group met with Ryan McAllister, Rep. Faso’s district director, and George Christian, Kingston office caseworker, in Faso’s office at 721 Broadway. Polly Gregor had emailed Ryan asking for a meeting last Saturday. The issue was the denial of access to Faso’s office, which we had been using since January to fill out comment sheets.
The meeting began with Ryan remarking that he had received Polly’s email and responded to her request for a meeting on Monday morning, and by the early afternoon had been contacted by “the press” to respond to my letter. I am assuming he meant the letter to the editor I wrote to the Kingston Times, Daily Freeman and Poughkeepsie Journal, which I submitted online early Monday morning, after having called and emailed Dain, Faso’s Washington chief of staff, with no response. Early that afternoon, Dan Barton of the Kingston Times called me and told me that he would be contacting the congressman’s office for a response.
Ryan told us that for a number of reasons they would not be allowing us to come up to the office on Fridays as we had been doing. He said we should not expect to be treated any differently than others since they were going to use a pop-up office window in the building lobby on Fridays for constituent comments. He said the staff was stressed by the demonstration every Friday and had to have time to set up the window downstairs. His staff is distracted from their primary work as caseworkers dealing with constituent issues with federal agencies. Also, the tenants of the building complained about the foot traffic in the building and the loud demonstration outside, and as tenants themselves, they needed to address these complaints. He said his case staff was unable to address policy matters.
We pointed out that we are not the organizers of the demonstration: Citizen Action sets up the 12 to 1 pm demonstrations. Certainly, some of us participate and support them, but they are completely separate, and even added together, we are speaking of 90 minutes of contact with the office each week. We made our case that we come to the office prior to the demonstrations, have never been a noisy group as we walk upstairs, are done within about 15 minutes, and that we bring constituent issues. We told him that we know the staff and have a courteous relationship with them.
We explained we do not expect to be treated differently from others coming to the office, but believe all constituents should have direct access to the office. We encouraged them to look for a more accessible office since there was no indication the demonstrations would be ending in the near future, considering that Trump is trying to destroy our country and suppress our votes. We spoke about why we believe we need to visit his office: that Faso has said that he doesn’t pay attention to phone calls (which Ryan denied) and we believe a personal visit has a greater chance of influencing how he votes. We explained that our interest is in helping Faso understand our stories and concerns in hopes of encouraging him to pay attention to all his constituents since he has had no public town halls where he would hear our the varied views and questions.
Ryan broke the stalemate by offering to let us come into the office at an earlier time on Fridays since the office was obviously empty during our meeting, or come on another day. We said we would discuss this with our members and I would contact him. We also requested that we meet with Ryan, the congressman, or a staff member who could discuss policy on a monthly basis.
We met at the diner and decided by consensus that we would we plan to meet on Fridays at Faso’s upstairs office at 9:45 to 10:15, with our regular meeting to follow. To decide on which issue we would be addressing each week, we plan to have an email discussion on Thursdays.”
Images from Faso Friday, July 28, 2017
Last weeks letter:
“On July 21 our Indivisible Ulster Faso Friday group of 6 went to Congressman Faso’s office at 721 Broadway in Kingston to fill out comment sheets in the office, which we have been doing weekly since January. We were told we could not go up to the Congressman’s office, where we had been filling out our comment sheets, but sent to a first-floor conference room. This is the second time we have been asked to use this room. Over the last month, we have been told that there are threats of violence against the Congressman’s office, and thus access to his office has been denied.
We were told by George Christian, who describes himself as the district manager for the Kingston area, that Dain Pascoccello, chief of staff for Faso in Washington, wanted us to be informed that we would no longer be permitted in the building on Fridays. We were told we should fill out our comment sheets and drop them off at the entrance to the building.
We object to this on a number of grounds. First, since Congressman Faso has avoided public town halls where his constituents would have an opportunity to question his policy decisions, to listen to our stories, this has been one of our few avenues outside of phone calls to make our voices heard. Second, as constituents, we should have access to our Congressman’s office, not just for our respectful, peaceful group but to bring to his attention our points of view in hopes that he would consider our needs when he votes on matters that affect our lives. Third, we believe that access for all constituents to voice either support or concerns is essential in a democracy where our representatives are elected and supported by taxpayers.”
– Kathy Adin