HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — In just a few short days, a GoFundMe initiative raised more than $3,000 to erect a billboard at a busy intersection that calls on Republican Congressman Chris Collins to host a town hall meeting, something he’s never done in his career.
The question he has: are these groups organizing against him looking for information, or are they looking for trouble?
Drivers in the Seven Corners area of Hamburg, will notice a very public request on behalf of a group of local voters — although not voters of the congressman from Clarence.
In fact, most actively campaigned against him, like Andrea Nikischer, of Citizens against Collins.
But they are residents of his district. And they want answers.
“The congressman doesn’t engage in meaningful discussion or debate in the district, and so we’ve all come together from all political parties to get a better understanding of the congressman’s positions,” Nikischer said.
Nikischer is correct. Going back to when he was Erie County Executive to his past four years in Congress, Collins has never held a town hall-style meeting.
“There’s not really a lot of good exchange on information or positions,:” he said. “They tend to be not very productive. So I don’t hold them, never have. I’m not somebody that sees the value of town halls that get hijacked by protestors.”
Collins says groups like those Nikischer represents are organized to disrupt. And he’s rather get into more meaningful discussions than shouting matches.Collins also says someone’s political affiliation has little to do with how wide his office door opens.
“I never ask a question when I’m taking a meeting whether you voted for me or not. I represent everyone,” he said. “I can assure you a lot of people that sit in my office did not vote for me, but I do still want to represent them and their issues when it comes to appropriations, budget and policy.”
But Nikischer says they’re not organized to disrupt. They want answers from real discussion.
“We want to know what his positions are,” she said. “We don’t want to yell at him. We want him to hear us and we want to hear him. The truth is, the congressman works for all of us, for everyone in the district.”
Collins knows about the billboard, and the likeness to Where’s Waldo.
But a flashing electronic sign greeting people on their way to and from work, or a protest at a local college, won’t change his stance.
“Well, I’m sure the billboard company is very happy with that,” Collins said. “So if that helps the economy, and that’s the way they want to spend their money, I say go for it.”
By comparison, Republican Congressman Tom Reed said Tuesday morning he has a heavy emphasis on town hall-style meetings, holding literally hundreds of them during his tenure.
He’s holding four more Saturday in Allegany, Cataraugaus and Chautauqua counties.
The first will be held from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. at the North Harmony Senior Center in Ashville, followed by a meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Pine Valley VFW Post #2522 in Cheery Creek, followed by a meeting from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. at the Humphrey Fire Department in Great Valley, followed by a meeting from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Allen Town Hall in Fillmore.