August 7, 2013 —
A visit by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to a campaign event for Congressman Chris Gibson sparked a protest by about 75 demonstrators on August 6, across from the entrance of the CVI Building in Ferndale.
The event was hosted by Alan Gerry, the owner of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and his wife Sandra.
An invitation to the event said that a $2,600 donation entitled the contributor to attend a VIP roundtable, a photo-op, and a general reception: $1,000 was required for the photo op and reception, while the reception by itself required a $250 donation.
As the evening began inside the building, outside on the street multiple speakers addressed various issues, many of which impact people who were not invited to the event and could not afford the price of admission.
In between chants like “Boehner, Gibson too extreme, don’t destroy the American Dream,” speaker after speaker declared that the poor and shrinking middle class are bearing the burden for steep cuts to federal programs and partisan gridlock in Washington D.C.
Kat Fisher, the Hudson Valley Organizer for Citizen Action New York, ticked off a list of 15 organizations represented at the event, including such groups as the NAACP, the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, Veterans for Peace and the Americans Postal Workers Union.
Launching into her remarks, Fisher said, “Speaker Boehner, Congressman Gibson and the Republicans in congress are clearly out of touch with what’s happening here in the Hudson Valley. Instead of creating jobs, investing in our communities, giving kids a head start, fixing our broken immigration system, and protecting our environment, their extreme Washington politics are dividing this country.”
Danielle Vereen, who just graduated from Newburgh Free Academy, said students like her who want to go to college face a problem because politicians in Washington “tell us you can’t because they don’t want to give us federal funding.”
Shannon Daniel, a member of the NAACP, talked about the 5% cuts to the pre-school program Head Start, which have been imposed because of so-called sequestration budgeting. She said, “The Sullivan County Head Start program has been so strong and so vibrant for so many years. It hugely benefits not just the single parents in our area, but our struggling families. Cutting Head Start or preschool is basically saying let’s decrease a child’s opportunity and chances of succeeding in school and life.”
Art Zaczkiewicz, introduced as a social worker and community organizer, said, “Consider that two thirds of U.S. corporations pay zero federal taxes, U.S corporations are sitting on $1.8 trillion in reserve cash yet congress refuses to raise the marginal tax rates for those companies, which would stimulate the economy, and create jobs. Instead, they are targeting programs like Head Start and Food Stamps, and that’s wrong.”
The Woodstock Connection
Now hosting the fundraiser for a Republican, in the past, Alan Gerry has been the target of Republican ire. Before the presidential election in 2008, Senator Chuck Schumer and then-Senator Hillary Clinton inserted a $1 million earmark into a bill to help pay for the creation of the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
At the time, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who was running for president, said “Woodstock Museum is a shining example of what’s wrong with Washington on pork-barrel, out-of-control spending,”
The other Republican senator from Arizona, John Kyl, said, “It seems to me that we do have to ask questions like whether it’s the will of this body to fund an earmark for a museum celebrating a weekend-long party that occurred 38 years ago.”
The senate voted 52 to 42 to kill the earmark, but the museum opened as scheduled regardless.
Syndicated columnist Kevin McDonough, who lives in Narrowsburg, wrote about the subject in a piece on the Huffington Post, https://tinyurl.com/kydrybv .