Travel Log: New Hartford and Kingston
Sister Betsy Van Deusen, CSJ
October 23, 2018
We pulled into the edge of the Home Depot parking lot in New Hartford, NY (near Utica) where a small crowd was starting to gather. Matt and Nicky, our “Advance Team,” had arranged and arrived ahead of us so that everything would be ready when we pulled up in the wrapped tour bus. It is hard to miss us…a 45 foot long, 13 foot high, brightly colored bus! We had asked for a meeting with Representative Claudia Tenney, the incumbent in that congressional district and n Central New York. No meeting did occur, but the constituents gathered on the gently-sloping hill in anticipation of joining with like-minded people who care about our neighbors.
Sr. Simone started us off with our main purpose: to support reasonable revenue for responsible programs. Then Sandy who is an LPN spoke about her concern that her representative was not doing enough for healthcare and described how dangerously short staffed her work place was. Someone in the crowd started to come forward to dispute her claims but stayed put with clarity from Simone.
Then Rev. Jeff Courter, a Presbyterian minister from a nearby community spoke about ICE having arrested a father from Guatemala who worked on a local dairy farm leaving his family and the farm in dire straights. He offered a prayer for the efforts of the bus tour and suggested that we are our “sister and brother’s keeper.” He said, “I applaud sisters for standing up for the least of these.”
Otter sang a song which included the line- “better jobs, better health care and clean up for planet Earth.” Sr. Simone ended the rally reminding the crowd of about 75 that we need tax justice to support 100% of the country and not the 1% and corporations. The Sisters then spread through the crowd to hand out pledge cards and Connection, the magazine of Network. With the signed pledge card, people came forward to sign the bus so they can go to Mar a Largo with the Nuns.
This gathering was special for me as many members of my congregation were there and brought birthday greetings!
Earlier in the day, I began my morning with an audio interview with a local AM radio station with a little publicity for our morning rally. The questioner was very interested in having me speak for all women religious and for the Church. I spoke about the dignity of life from conception to natural death and how we need to care for our sisters and brothers.
We continued on to Kingston, NY. At the eleventh hour we learned that a staff member of Rep. John Faso would meet with us. Sr. Richelle Friedman and I climbed into the advance team’s car and headed to Kingston. We had a nice ride on the unremarkably-colored New York State Thruway with Matt and Nicky. Upon arrival, we met Kevin from Citizen Action, who joined us in our meeting with Ryan McAllister, the District Director, and George Christian, the Senior Caseworker. Interestingly, Ryan grew up in my hometown so I know his parents and family.
We thanked Ryan for the Congressman’s “no” vote on the tax law and talked on about the impact of the law on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and healthcare. We told him that we understood that Rep Faso was hard to meet with. He said, “I do his calendar for him and that is not true. He has had more than 1000 meetings with constituents and two Town Halls. He also goes on radio. He talked about the jobs that are being created as a result of the tax cuts to corporates.” We challenged that with only 4% of corporations gave a bonus and much of the money was used to buy back stocks. He had no response. He did say that Rep. Faso does not believe compromise is a dirty word.
We thanked them for taking time with us and went outside to join the rally. People were very vocal in saying that Rep. Faso did not listen to his constituents. The group outside was 80 strong and ready to join us on the road to Mar-a-Lago.