Representative Tom Reed, who holds the 23rd congressional district seat, doesn’t visit Ithaca very often, but he paid a surprise visit late Thursday night as complaints about his absence grew.
The Republican defeated Ithaca-area contenders Nate Shinagawa and Martha Robertson in a district that includes Ithaca and a western swath of the Southern Tier, and beat Western New York challenger John Plumb last fall after endorsing Donald Trump for president nearly a year ago.
Ithaca area residents have complained that Reed schedules town hall meetings to hear from his constituents without coming to Ithaca; four meetings scheduled for today are in Ashville, Cherry Creek, Great Valley, and Fillmore, all in the western half of the district. The nearest, Fillmore, is about two hours away from Ithaca. Reed was last in Ithaca last spring.
At the end of a week in which Ithaca residents spoke out about Reed’s long absence, visited his Ithaca staff during the brief posted office hours, made plans to car pool to the distant town hall meetings, and staged sit-ins at the congressman’s local office, and a local media outlet even offered to host a livestreamed town hall, Reed finally paid a surprise visit.
Reed’s long Thursday had begun with a meeting at the White House with President Trump and several fellow House members who had been early supporters of the Trump campaign. He characterized the session as a “very candid, direct conversation.”
The congressman stopped in Ithaca late Thursday night “on his way back home from being in [Washington,] D.C. all week,” a Reed spokesperson confirmed for us. He arrived shortly before 11pm to join protesters and his local staff, who Reed’s office tell us had brought pizza for “those at the sit-in.”
“Despite our differences of opinion on some issues,” Reed said in a statement, “we had a respectful conversation that allowed us to better understand each other.”
City of Ithaca second ward alderperson Ducson Nguyen agrees, and tells us that “this visit was a reasonable start and I hope it leads to more engagement with residents of the City of Ithaca.”
The far-ranging conversation focused on some topics of particular interest to Ithaca residents. “I asked him to show compassion for the benefits of sanctuary cities and to be aware of the cruelty of deporting DACA students,” Nguyen says. (DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program that assists undocumented students who entered the United States as children.)
“He was friendly and patient and I do appreciate the time he spent with us after a long drive from D.C.,” added Nguyen.
“We may not always agree on every issue, but we are always willing to listen and have a conversation,” Reed said on Friday. “I appreciate their passion and commitment to standing up (or sitting-in) for what they believe in,” he said of his Ithaca constituents. His office says, “We are planning a town hall in the Tompkins County area this spring.”
Reed’s town hall meetings today are at 9:15am in Ashville, 11:30am in Cherry Creek, 1:45pm in Great Valley, and 4pm in Fillmore.