Congressman Josh Gottheimer Talks Healthcare, Infrastructure with Constituents at Informal ‘Cup of Joe with Josh’ Town Hall

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, Elan Carr, the U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, and others visited the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to rally in support of an official House of Representatives resolution opposing a global boycott of Israel.

MAHWAH – Josh Gottheimer doesn’t go for formal “town hall” meetings. He prefers meeting constituents more informally as he did Tuesday morning at the Stateline Diner on Route 17.

Gottheimer’s preference for public interaction became an issue of sorts recently when a number of mostly liberal groups invited the District 5 congressman to an April 22 town hall in Ridgewood. He never showed. Undaunted, the groups staged the town hall anyway with people questioning the congressman’s photo, which graced an empty desk.

And so it was that as Gottheimer talked to about 30 or so people assembled at separate tables Tuesday,  one group brought up his reluctance to hold formal town halls. Some said they had attended the event in Ridgewood.

The congressman replied that he frequently listens and converses with residents in big and small venues. That was acknowledged, but as Gottheimer moved to another table, the group said they like town halls because they allow a congressman in this case to be questioned in front of a large audience. Everybody gets a sense of what an official thinks on a variety of issues.

What Gottheimer seems to like is what he calls “Cup of Joe with Josh” events at diners around the district. This one was the 38th he’s held since being elected to the House in 2016. The congressman gave general comments about the need for infrastructure improvements and his desire to protect the ACA, or if you prefer, Obamacare, which he said continues to be under assault from the Trump administration.

Then it was time to journey from table to table. The issues discussed did not differ remarkably from those one hears at town halls. But these conversations were limited to those at the table and standing within earshot.

Not all the issues raised were concerns of Congress. Some people wanted to talk about education, which really is a local matter. Then there were varying views on a plan to construct a cell tower in Mahwah.

Presumably, those with bad cell phone reception like the idea and those with good reception may not.
One couple challenged Gottheimer a bit on taxes, noting that while the federal $10,000 deduction cap on state and local taxes has gotten much attention, New Jersey has a similar cap. That is not a federal issue.
But then one person at the table brought up a “flat tax,” which is a federal issue. This would be a system that taxes all individuals at the same rate regardless of income. It long has been championed by those on the right. Gottheimer said simply that a flat tax wouldn’t pass.

The couple also said Democrats in Congress are wasting too much time and resources investigating the president and accomplishing little.

Gottheimer said that is why he’s a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus. He said the group meets regularly with the goal of bridging the partisan chasm and actually getting something done.

One accomplishment Gottheimer and just about all elected officials in the state want to see is a new rail tunnel under the Hudson. Gottheimer talked of literally descending into the tunnel last week with a host of other officials to see how bad things are in an artery built more than 100 years ago.

He said the need for a new tunnel is obvious and expressed hope a meeting among House leaders and the president on infrastructure last week would bear fruit.

So do train riders.

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