This week, I attended a Town Hall hosted by my borough’s councilman. The Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, was the key attraction. A large crowd of people, from the diverse neighborhoods within our districts, filled the gymnasium.
It was my first experience with such a gathering, although I have been to community board meetings specifically focused on environmental issues.
Most citizens don’t get directly involved in the nuts and bolts of local government. But these are not ordinary times.
I live in a blue state with progressive senators, but my top takeaway from the Mayor’s comments was that regardless of where we reside, we all have to “show up.” He advised those in attendance, “Send a message to someone you know in a red state.”
The tide is turning, even though it’s only a month since President Trump took office…
- I saw a clip of a woman yelling at Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). She spoke about how coal jobs weren’t coming back and the sick miners that may be losing their health insurance. McConnell has been pushing the meme of a “war on coal” and opposing the Clean Power Plan for years. Too bad he didn’t focus on trying to create new jobs for his state’s residents in the green energy sector.
- Ten-year-old Hannah Bradshaw asked Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) – “What are you doing to help protect our water and air for our generations and my kids’ generations? And Do you believe in science?” – she got rousing applauds.
- In Reno, a county that voted for Trump, a military mom asked Senator Dean Helle (R-NV), “A few days ago you voted for Scott Pruitt for Environmental Protection Agency. Knowing his ties to big oil and gas and other polluters, what will you do to ensure the protection of our clean water and clean air?” She got a round of applause.
- Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Sen. James Inhofe — who once held a snowball on the floor of the Senate while denying climate change — is in the position of being asked by his constituents about the upsurge in earthquakes. Currently, there are three per day. Wonder if his staff has written up explanations outlining how the disposal of fracking wastewater underground is a key part of that equation.
Presidential press secretary, Sean Spicer, suggested that those attending meetings across the nation with their elected officials were “a loud group, [a] small group of people disrupting something, in many cases, for media attention.”
Trump, in his favorite format of communication, wrote:
It made me laugh. It also brought to mind how my father, and other disgruntled community members, years ago, decided it was time to give our Republican Congressman his walking papers. Tired of representation by a Goldwater Republican, they banded together to elect Lester Wolff, who ended up serving his New York district for sixteen years.
We are part of a democracy, folks. Just as the Tea Party began when various conservative activist groups began to coalesce, that’s what is happening as a response to Donald Trump.
It’s as American as apple pie. It’s called being an effective citizen.
The air we breathe is as much a kitchen-table policy concern as anything. It impacts the health of families. Congress has voting power on the budget of the EPA. It is essential to know where your Congressperson and Senators stand on climate change, the Clean Power Plan, protecting children from toxins, and environmental justice.
So roll up your sleeves — and get ready to ask the important questions.
Photo: NBC News