NY-22 Minute: Brindisi Holds Last Spring Town Hall in Little Falls By Luke Perry
There were approximately 30 people in the audience. Brindisi stated that he is a “firm believer” in town hall meetings where people can “ask any questions they want.” These help him learn about what is on the minds of constituents and “be a better legislator.” Several topics were covered over nearly two hours.
Anthony Brindisi discussed his service on the New York State Assembly’s Veteran’s Committee, where he focused on issues that impacted returning veterans, such homelessness and injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Brindisi believes the federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs needs to do a better job. There is too much bureaucracy and not enough medical professionals who can provide veterans with the timely care they need.
Brindisi was asked about recent federal immigration enforcement separating children from parents, which he described as “inhumane.” This differs from past policy under the Bush and Obama administrations and “must stop.”
There may be short term “strain” in terms of welcoming refugees to the area, such as increased need for ESL teachers in schools, but long term, Brindisi explained, “I have seen firsthand the benefits of refugees.” Refugees come to the area, start businesses, and have a positive economic impact.
Brindisi believes education is the foundation for promoting economic growth. “There are good paying jobs out there,” Brindisi stated, “but not enough people trained in the kind of skills needed.” Brindisi called for more technical education programs, which he pursued through BOCES as Assemblyman.
“We have very old infrastructure,” Brindsi said. He welcomed a new infrastructure bill that will create jobs, “hopefully union jobs,” but President Trump’s infrastructure proposal puts too much of the financial burden on states and localities.
The district’s colleges and universities are an “untapped resource.” “Trying to keep young people here is a challenge,” Brindisi said. He would like to help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.
Brindisi expressed concern that many dairy farmers are going out of business because milk prices are so low. “Dairy is one of our top industries.” If dairy farmers go out of businesses, Brindisi explained, residual industries suffer as well. Government representatives need to stand up to against corporate farms and work to establish a price floor, as Senator Gillibrand has done.
Downtown Hospital Debate
Brindisi was asked about foiled e-mails he was involved in that referenced Herkimer County officials in a derogatory manner. “I probably should have used different words,” Brindisi said, “and I apologize.” Brindisi was frustrated with certain political leaders, not constituents.
The young man who asked the question pressed Brindisi and the two politely disagreed about the implications. “My record working with people in this area is second to none,” Brindisi replied.
Others spoke to Brindisi’s work on behalf of Herkimer County, including Rick Adams (R), the mayor of Frankfort. “I want to confirm Brindisi works across the line,” Mayor Adams said, “I came here to support you.”
This led to inquiries about how Brindisi will handle “fake news” and efforts to influence the NY-22 campaign by wealthy individuals from outside the district, such as the Mercer family. “It’s very interesting to me,” Brindisi replied, “the Mercers are so interested in a downtown hospital in Utica, New York.”
“My party probably doesn’t like this much,” Brindisi said, but “parties don’t mean much to me.” Brindisi has previously stated he will not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker.
Brindisi has adopted at least one aspect of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee messaging (DCCC). The DCCC has sought to brand The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as a “tax scam.” Brindisi has used this phrase on the campaign trail (examples here & here). He supports tax cuts, but believes large corporations are benefiting from this particular law, not constituents.
“I chuckle when my opponent says she’s the underdog,” Brindisi said. Tenney is an incumbent, with 100 percent name recognition, "sitting on a powerful committee she can raise money from," the House Financial Services Committee. Brindisi expects “a very negative campaign on the other side and we’ve seen it already.”
Representative Tenney “says things that offend large segments of the populations who don’t agree with her.” Brindisi believes you “can’t work with others when you’re offending people on a daily basis.” Civility is something “that is lacking right now.”
Brindisi contends we need to put people in office who believe in science, such as Sherry Boehlert, former longtime Congressman from Central New York, who chaired the House Science Committee. Now “scientists are under attack.” Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Administrator, and Betsy DuVos, Secretary of Education, are the two Cabinet members Brindisi most dislikes.
“I want to see a greater role for science in government,” Brindisi said, referencing his wife, who is a biologist. “If I don’t believe in science,” Brindisi explained with a smile, “I’m going to hear about it.”
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
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