Video: Mayor Dougherty extends invitation to Congressman Frelinghuysen
By Kevin Coughlin
Declaring that “we are definitely starting a Revolution,” Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty on Saturday urged anti-Trump activists to take their message to neighboring Morris Township and other traditionally Republican towns across Morris County.
He also offered to host a town hall meeting with Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) at the 1,300-seat Mayo Performing Arts Center.
“We can fill it,” Dougherty told a morning rally outside Morristown town hall. For weeks, constituents have been requesting a meeting with the 12-term congressman, who has not held a town hall gathering since 2013.
“We want our Congressman to come out and hold town-wide meetings,” said Dougherty, who has praised Frelinghuysen in the past. “People have to be heard. Right now… we’re not being heard.”
Frelinghuysen’s staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Allison Larena, president of MPAC, later told MorristownGreen.com: “The theatre is host to all different types of community events and we would be happy to speak with the mayor about his plans” for a town hall meeting.
‘OUR WORST NIGHTMARE’
Organized by the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Saturday’s event drew more than 350 spectators, according to a police estimate. The mostly white crowd waved signs in spring-like sunshine, asking “Where’s Rodney?” and decrying the GOP’s promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
A healthcare bill circulating among Republican lawmakers is “our worst nightmare,” said New Jersey Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, asserting it favors corporations and the wealthy and would “rip away coverage for tens of millions of people.”
“The ACA saved my life,” said Lisa Krutisia, a teacher from Mt. Olive who cited tests that diagnosed her cancer in time to treat it.
Krutisia said her late aunt, Barbara Ann Shupe of Morristown, was not so lucky. When Shupe’s employer went out of business, she lost her health insurance, and by the time the ACA kicked into gear, it was too late for the diabetes sufferer.
Clean Water Action, New Jersey NOW, Blue Wave New Jersey and NJ 11th for Change, which drew 1,300 people to four town halls this week, were among organizations at the rally. Other events were scheduled Saturday in Branchburg and Jersey City.
Speakers also tore into the President’s stepped up enforcement against undocumented residents, and Frelinghuysen’s environmental record.
Youths in the 11th District now are afraid to attend school because they fear their parents may be rounded up for deportation while they are away, said Karol Ruiz, an attorney for the immigrant advocacy organization Wind of the Spirit.
“Children should not have to worry about that. And Rodney Frelinghuysen is our representative, and he has the power to speak on that,” said Ruiz, whose group is planning a “No Hate, No Fear” march in Morristown on March 18, 2017.
“The truth is, Rodney has the power, on the [House]Appropriations Committee, to make sure that funding goes where it needs to go: To healthcare, to clean air and water, not to terrorizing our immigrants, friends and families,” she told the crowd.
In a blistering attack, Jeff Tittle of the Sierra Club accused Frelinghuysen of caving to the oil- and gas lobbies and “corporate polluters,” and of cowardice for dodging town halls in favor of a “phony phone call town meeting with his handpicked cronies and buddies.”
Slideshow photos by Bill Lescohier, Pamela Babcock and Kevin Coughlin
‘YOU CAN START A REVOLUTION HERE’
Elizabeth Dyer, a constituent from Montclair who was accompanied to the rally by her labradoodles, Matata and Tess, said she cannot get through to her Representative. “When I call Frelinghuysen’s office, I get a message saying he can’t take any more messages,” she said.
The Morristown rally was the sixth demonstration for Verona resident Ina Denburg since Trump took office.
“I’d feel guilty if I stayed home. It would be impossible,” said Denburg, likening hot-button issues to tentacles of an octopus. “I can’t even figure out which one is more important now.”
One of the loudest roars came in response to the Mayor’s suggestion that the activists take their show on the road.
“You can start at Revolution here, no doubt about it,” Dougherty said, noting Morristown’s history in the War for Independence. But demonstrators need to “wake up people” in places where they “aren’t paying attention,” he said.
“We’ve got to start hitting communities like Mendham, like Roxbury, like Chester, like Jefferson, like Morris Township,” said the Mayor, who is running for a third term, as his opponent, Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris, watched from the audience.
“I think we should do a thing in Morris Township. What do you think about that?” Dougherty said. “They’re going to love that. How about Morris Township?”
Stay tuned for more coverage.