A community meeting with U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch became heated when political advocates stood up as a group to confront the 8th District representative on pressing national issues. The discussion was initiated by North End resident, Lisa Green, (58:35 in video) who said that she and over a hundred constituents have recently visited the Congressman’s office, but have not received a response to their questions, specifically:
- What is your position on current US policy on family detention in border camps?
- Do you believe that it is the constitutional responsibility of Congress, specifically the oversight committee, to investigate possible grounds for impeachment (of President Donald Trump) through public hearings?
- Will you hold a Town Hall in our district during the August recess?
Members of the activist squad said, “these are not issues for small rooms” referring to the North End’s Nazzaro Community Center where the congressman was invited to speak on August 8th by the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). The group that spoke up was a mix of North End and other district constituents.
A woman who identified herself as Tanya spoke of unsuccessful efforts to schedule a face to face meeting with the congressman to discuss these issues. Further, she has reserved space in Quincy for a Town Hall type gathering but has not received a response from the congressman’s staff.
Rep. Lynch said he was in Washington D.C. on the days when the advocates visited his office. He countered the accusations by saying, “I’ve been to 20+ meetings in the district over the past two years,” noting they varied from small groups to several hundred attendees. “I have 22 towns and 3 cities that I represent … and I will do Town Hall meetings,” noting one coming up this month in Braintree.
The congressman said he just returned from the Mexican border at El Paso (1:05:40 in video). “They changed the US policy where they are no longer holding people in the processing areas, the so-called camps,” he said. “Now most of the refugees and asylum seekers are at shelters on the Mexican side of the border.” Lynch also visited the ICE detention facilities and met with several immigrant and advocacy groups.
“This is my 16th visit to detention facilities and camps around the world during my term,” said Lynch. Referring to other visits to Darfur, Syria, Iraq, Afganistan, Gaza, and Guatamala. He added, “I probably have been to more immigrant detention camps than any other member of Congress.”
As the exchange ensued, past NEWRA President Ford Cavallari took exception to the group’s behavior in the meeting saying, “I feel like this is a mob.” The group has recently staged several protest efforts at Lynch’s office.
Regarding impeachment hearings, Rep. Lynch believes that would backfire into getting Trump reelected. “If we proceed on impeachment proceedings, the Senate will acquit him and you will set him up to be reelected,” said the congressman. “He (Trump) is begging you to try and impeach him because he has the Republican votes in the Senate to be acquited,” he added. “I will everything in my power to make sure he does not get four more years, that’s my position,” Lynch said noting he is working with other colleagues in Congress on two investigations that may reveal new evidence. Green said they were asking about impeachment inquiries, not Congressional hearings, and that other Democrats disagree with the congressman’s view.
Before the discussion of national issues, the majority of Lynch’s presentation at the NEWRA meeting addressed the local climate change challenges and plans to protect Boston’s neighborhoods (2:40 in video). Rep. Lynch said he was recently briefed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh regarding the Climate Ready Downtown and the North End Project and gave an update on their plans to protect the neighborhood from flooding due to rising sea levels. Major infrastructure will be required, according to Lynch, including berms and raised barriers along the waterfront. In terms of funding, he noted a two trillion dollar funding goal to increase the transportation budget, primarily funded by a new federal gas tax.
Rep. Lynch addressed the federal loophole that prevents cities from enforcing ordinances against AirBnb, short-term rental companies and transportation entities like Uber and Lyft. (35:20 in video)
Asked about gun control (50:20 in video), the congressman noted background check legislation already passed by the House. After the recent shootings in other cities, he is optimistic that the Senate and President are further considering this type of regulation.
The congressman was also asked about regulating tech companies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon (1:17:30 in video). Lynch is the Chair of the taskforce on financial technology, noting that these companies “know everything about you.” He is preparing legislation so that terms of service would provide more options to preserve privacy.