Portman Is No-Show At Town Hall Meeting
A crowd of approximately 300 people filled the sanctuary of Cleveland's St. James AME Church on February 23 where a town hall meeting with United States Senator Rob Portman was convened by Indivisible CLE. Senator Portman did not attend and did not respond to the request from Indivisible CLE to hold a town hall meeting during the current Congressional recess.
The town hall meeting was intended to create a community forum for discussion of concerns brought to Senator Portman by the people of Northeast Ohio. In Senator Portman's absence, local speakers addressed issues that affect people's lives in Norhteast Ohio. Rian and Kareem spoke from Black Lives Matter; Jimmy Sharp, of Organizing for America, spoke on the importance of maintaining the Affordable Care Act; John Morris, of the Shaker Heights Teachers Association, spoke about the value of organized labor in public education and Mario M. Clopton-Zymler, Co-Chair of the Cleveland Community Police Commission, spoke about the challenges of implementation of the consent decree between the City of Cleveland and the Justice Department.
Following prepared remarks, citizens lined the aisle for an opportunity to take the microphone and speak directly to the cardboard cutout figure of Senator Rob Portman. Speakers asked Senator Portman for his support of initiatives that help people rather than corporations, that will address the dangers created by climate change, that will protect the rights of LGBTQ citizens, and for budget support for the National Endowment for the Arts. One speaker testified concerning the damage that would be done to his business if tariffs are imposed on goods imported from Mexico. A speaker who immigrated from Taiwan told Senator Portman that his disappointment that followed the election of Donald Trump was replaced by a feeling of hope and pride after the Women's March in January.
Speakers came to the microphone to complain about Senator Portman's support for cabinet nominees who they felt were unqualified. One speaker noted that Senator Portman voted to confirm Betsy DeVos, who contributed $50,000 to Senator Portman's campaign, despite the fact that a Political Action Committee that Ms. DeVos once chaired owes $5.3 million to the State of Ohio. Several speakers observed that when they call Senator Portman's office with concerns, they receive the same response from his office as they received from the cardboard figure placed in front of their microphone.
The speakers reminded Senator Portman that he works for the citizens of the State of Ohio and that he represents all citizens, whether or not they voted for him last November. Speakers came from as far as Youngstown, Hiram and Kent to attend the Town Hall meeting.
Indivisible CLE describes itself as "an activist movement to resist the Trump agenda and protect our democracy, inspired & empowered by the Indivisible Guide." The group also invited United States Senator Sherrod Brown to convene a Town Hall Meeting, however, Senator Brown declined. Senator Brown did, however, acknowledge the request and expressed support for the goals of the activist group.
Trudy Hutchinson is a Lakewood resident interested in community activism.
I am a Lakewood resident and am interested in community activism.