February 22, 2017
I recently wrote to Congressmen Zeldin to voice support for Planned Parenthood and to urge Mr. Zeldin to vote against defunding the organization. Reading his reply, I could not fathom Mr. Zeldin’s failure to comprehend the crucial role Planned Parenthood plays in providing a wide range of health care needs to women and men.
Mr. Zeldin proclaims to support the notion that “women must have access to the highest quality of health care from providers maintaining the highest standards of excellence.” However, he then boasts that he “successfully advocated to ensure that the federal tax dollars [intended for] Planned Parenthood are redirected to [other] women’s health care centers” while an unspecified “investigation into Planned Parenthood is completed.” According to Mr. Zeldin, redirecting Planned Parenthood’s funds to other health care centers “would provide increased health care options and greater access to care.”
Mr. Zeldin’s attempt to justify his vote is rife with mistruths and unsupported assumptions.
First, I am aware of no valid pending investigation of Planned Parenthood unless Mr. Zeldin has bought into the politically motivated, and now completely debunked, claim that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue, first asserted by former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. (Notably, the creators of the video upon which this claim was based have been indicted.)
Second, 25 percent of the funds Planned Parenthood receives are Title X (the nation’s federal family planning program) grants, which are competitively awarded — which means that Planned Parenthood provides better care than other providers. This shows that there are no health care providers in our district that can provide a comparable level of experience and reputation for quality care to handle the needs of district residents who use the services of Planned Parenthood.
Third, the remaining 75 percent of the funds Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government are reimbursements from Medicaid, which covers aid provided to the poor. Notably, no federal money is used by the group to provide abortions — so this is a red herring.
Fourth, in states that have denied funds to Planned Parenthood, the result was a decrease in health services across the board. The remaining health care facilities lack the capacity to fill the health care gap that would result if Planned Parenthood shut down.
In short, the success of the health care system depends upon Planned Parenthood’s participation in it. Shut it down and the entire system will unravel. We should all recognize that Mr. Zeldin’s vote has betrayed Long Island and the nation.
To Annoy Constituents
February 27, 2017
To the Editor:
Recently I called the office of Representative Lee Zeldin because I wasn’t able to listen to his dinnertime town meeting and I wanted to register a couple of opinions, since that was what he asked for. So I called the office and was switched to the receptionist — a robot, which switched me to the mailbox, which was also a robot, telling me it was full, but was glad to switch me back to the receptionist, who, robotically, was not annoyed when it switched me back to the full-message mailbox, which was equally pleasant when it switched me back to the robot receptionist. And so forth. You get the idea. I would suggest to the representative that he either hire a person to be the receptionist or get a real person to empty the mailbox. Neither is very hard to do, and the current system is a really good way to annoy constituents.
What I wanted to express to Mr. Zeldin was that I am totally disgusted by his position on immigrant deportation, which I think is incredibly insensitive and wrongheaded. This is not to mention his not being remotely involved as to how to solve the problem by making a path for law-abiding immigrants, many in his district, who would love to work hard to become citizens if there was any opportunity whatsoever.
The second position that disgusts me and that I wanted to mention was his voting for H.J. Resolution 69, which allows for the killing of hibernating bears and wolf pups, and running down wildlife from planes to be shot, in Alaska’s wildlife refuge. First of all, these animals belong there, second it is a refuge, or should be, and third, these animals are important to Alaska and part of its ecosystem. So I fail to see what earthly business it is of Mr. Zeldin’s, way up there in Alaska, where he has no constituents whatsoever. I am truly ashamed. Why on earth did he do this except for the delight of the N.R.A.? I mean, shooting hibernating bears and wolf pups. How manly. How brave. How sportsmanlike. Wow.
I know there are many robots who answer mail and phone calls in legislative offices, but I am hoping that these opinions actually get through to Mr. Zeldin so he can see how some of his constituents feel, and how they are likely to vote.
A Weak Display
February 25, 2017
Thank you for your excellent editorial about (our Congressional Representative Lee) “Zeldin’s Dilemma.” By campaigning in our district, Zeldin should know that while he has many constituents who support his beliefs, he has many who do not. Answering to all of them is the job he’s paid to do. I am one of the ones who registered for Zeldin’s “telephone town hall,” and it felt like yet another cowardly layer of separation Zeldin is trying to put between him and his detractors.
The telephone town hall itself was a joke, and so much so, I hope The Star starts covering them. Zeldin did not answer a single question; with each answer he immediately got lost in word salads and tangents, and those who asked the questions couldn’t keep him on track because their mikes were silenced after they asked the question. (One woman in a Facebook group I belong to said she tried and tried to interrupt Zeldin’s rambling non-answer to her question to get him back on track, but we couldn’t hear her.)
So it was anything but a town hall, it was not a discussion of any kind, and there were no answers given to the tough questions. Surely The Star can hold Zeldin accountable for such a weak display of “communication” with his constituents. Even if he won’t meet with The Star or hold actual town halls, reporting can still happen on the terrifying things Zeldin is voting “aye” on in Congress (reciprocal state gun rights! Shooting hibernating bears and wolf pups in Alaska!), and the dodging and weaving he’s doing with his constituents.
Let’s keep the spotlight on him (and our other House and Senate reps) so we can all be a better informed electorate come 2018. Thank you.
Hold a Town Meeting
February 27, 2017
To the Editor:
I am distressed over the possibility that last Thursday’s telephone meeting organized by Congressman Lee Zeldin might have been used as a means to avoid a town meeting that would have likely brought the congressman face to face with a representative body of all his constituents, including what one of his associates labeled “liberal obstructionists.”
As a congressman, one of Zeldin’s principal responsibilities is to lead his First District constituents in directions that may be unpopular but which he thinks suit the nation’s best interest. How can Zeldin pretend to provide that leadership if, in the first instance, he doesn’t give his people the opportunity to explain their concerns?
That includes taking questions on all topics they feel pertinent, not just on prescreened “acceptable” issues as Zeldin appears to have arranged last week. And it includes an opportunity for the congressman’s constituents to respond to his explanations and not be cut off from further communication, as appears to have occurred last week.
In other words, offering a dialogue, as a well-run town meeting does, in which the congressman attempts to persuade his constituents to his point of view, and not simply speechify. That has been the democratic way since ancient times. The other way is cowardly and, ultimately, of no lasting use, as many participants not initially sharing Zeldin’s view continue to feel frustrated and suspicious by his unwillingness to meet their concerns head-on.
During last week’s telephone call-in Zeldin took a poll, asking which of several broad issues, such as the economy, or immigration, or foreign policy, etc., was of most concern to his listeners. One issue Zeldin failed to include on his list of choices was “a serious lack of faith in our government leaders.” Yet picking up any day’s newspaper makes clear that this is a paramount concern, if not the paramount concern, among many in the First District and the nation.
Is the congressman a leader worthy of that faith, or just another politician who will eventually be voted out of office for being so predictably ordinary? If the former, Zeldin should hold a town meeting and listen to, and attempt to persuade, all his constituents. Zeldin may not wind up gaining their agreement, but he will have taken a big step toward gaining their respect.
February 26, 2017
To the Editor,
The bad habit of lobbing sweeping generalizations at people you disagree with seems to have spread from the White House to East Hampton. Reg Cornelia’s description of people who write letters to the editor criticizing President Trump and Representative Zeldin (“Soros-funded” and “D.N.C.-scripted”) certainly does not apply to the let ter-writers I know.
In fact, they are spontaneously expressing their own views. I know these people would be pleased to engage with Mr. Cornelia on concrete issues. As an official of the East Hampton Republican Party, he surely can do better than resort to smearing their abilities to think and write for themselves. Or, is he perhaps just blindly following the playbook of Trump/Bannon/Fox News?
An American Right
February 26, 2017
Aah — the first signs of spring and the first salvo from the gentleman chair of the East Hampton Republican Party, Reg Cornelia.
So refined in tone, so elegant in phrase. He calls the current political protesters “kooks and commies.” He did call them crazy, but he must know that term fits Trump exclusively.
It must disturb him that the protesters are taking their cue straight from the Tea Party — confront and resist!
It is our right. Still an American right. And we will continue to do so!