Over the past few weeks, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport) felt uncertain about attending the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. On Saturday, in front of his constituents, he announced his decision—no.
“I don’t want to break decorum,” Meeks said. “But I can’t sit in there with someone that doesn’t respect me and give them respect.”
President Donald Trump became a major concern at a State of the District town hall at York College hosted by Meeks. The Democratic representative for the 5th Congressional District vowed to oppose any policy, from a border wall to ending diversity visas, advocated by the White House.
The meeting attracted around 150 people, including local officials such as State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Hollis, Rosedale, Laurelton, Kew Gardens, Queens Village) and State Assemblymember Vivian Cook (D-South Jamaica, Rochdale).
Meeks began by referring to Abraham Lincoln, the former president that led an end to slavery. He contrasted Lincoln’s effort with Andrew Johnson, who “wanted to reverse everything Lincoln did.” He noted that the present transition, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, was the same as in the mid-1800s.
“Now we have a 45th president and he seems focused on eliminating everything the 44th president did,” Meeks said.
The three-day government shutdown also became a topic that Meeks used to blame Trump for causing disorder and fear across the country.
“We wouldn’t be where we are if the President didn’t stop DACA [five] months ago,” he said.
In addition, Meeks listened to questions, comments, and concerns from residents for the remaining time at the over three-hour town hall. One resident brought up the USPS, the federal agency under fire from Queens issues for misplaced or delayed mail throughout the borough.
Meeks, along with Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, parts of the Bronx), sent a letter to the postmaster general on January 23rd that requested immediate improvements to service. He said that other Queens officials in the House will meet either this week or the following to take further action.
“We want to go to evaluate what’s taking place in post officers, the services there, the mail delivery as folks are not getting their checks and stuff delivered on time. It’s affecting all of Queens,” said Meeks.
Meeks’ decision to skip the State of the Union brought some worries to residents during questions. After one woman asked for him to disrupt Trump’s speech, like South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson’s infamous “You lie” comment to Barack Obama in 2009, Meeks disagreed with that strategy
“That just riles up his base,” he said. “I want to win.”
Despite the presence of Trump and his allies in Washington, Meeks felt optimistic to reverse the damages caused in the past year.
“It is probably the most critical election in the history of the United States of America that we go out and vote in November 2018,” he said.