by Dave Warner

The 2019 Legislative Breakfast drew a packed house Friday morning at the Travelodge in Little Falls. The Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce hosted the yearly event.

According to Michele Hummel, Executive Director of the Chamber “We wanted to get the elected officials together because a lot of our members and members of the community don’t often have an opportunity to get some one on one time with them to ask questions.”

Hummel went on to say “We also have three groups of students that are here and we really believe in investing in our youth. The sooner we get them involved with the issues, the better off we’ll all be.”

Assemblyman Robert Smullen said “I’m very glad to be here at the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. For me, it’s a great opportunity to tell everybody here about what I’ve been doing in Albany for the past two months. I’m making some very good headway I think in both the committees I’m on and and making sure that I represent everybody in the 118th Assembly District. To take our values and vote on them in Albany and going forward.”

After breakfast, each one of the elected officials were asked to answer a question that had been posed by one of the attendees. Each had a maximum of seven minutes to give their answer, allowing the morning session to give each one of them equal time and to ensure that the event ended on time so that everyone could get back to work.

Guest Moderator, Michael Ogden, President of the Little Falls Hospital presented the questions to each of the individuals at the head table. U.S. Representative Anthony Brindisi could not attend because of the legislative calendar in Washington, so he sent a representative who read a prepared statement. U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik could not attend for the same reason.

The first question was posed to Senator James Seward by Ogden “What opportunities do you see for the two parties to work together.”

Part of Seward’s response was “I’m very comfortable and used to reaching across the aisle to work with my colleagues on the other side. It’s always been a Democrat controlled Assembly, so to get anything done, we’ve always had to work across the aisle to try to come up with compromises and agreements on behalf of the people of New York.”

“That will not change when there are areas that we’re at least close to agreement on,” he said.

Seward said he didn’t want to be political, but facts were facts. “There are forty elected Democrat members of the Senate. Four come from north of the Tappan Zee Bridge. I still call it the Tappan Zee Bridge. Only four, ten percent of that conference, represent Upstate. That, in my estimation, does not bode well for Upstate New York.”

“We are going to have to continue our efforts to stand up for our part of the state to make sure that our voices are heard and our needs and concerns are met in the State Senate and legislature,” stated Seward.

Seward continued, stating that he so far, had found little that they could work on together in terms of the bills that had been presented to date in the Senate.

The next question was for Senator Tedisco. “The 49th is a rural district. How are you going to ensure that the needs of its constituents are met compared to the urban districts like Albany, Buffalo and Rochester?”

“We’re outnumber 39 – 23 right now in the New York State Senate. When he (Senator Seward) said let’s listen to the economic agenda for Upstate New York…if you listen carefully, you can hear crickets,” stated Tedisco.

“It hasn’t been talked about at all and that is extremely disheartening.” Tedisco explained that he could only describe the existing agenda in Albany as “regressive.” He went on to state that there was more interest in legalizing things like marijuana and prostitution than economic development.

The remainder of the meeting posed questions to the other legislators who then took their seven minutes to answer them.

Assemblyman Robert Smullen said “We’re not just competing with other states, but we’re competing with the globalization and the revolution of technology. It’s changed our lives. It’s changed our lives for the better. But we here in Upstate New York have been left behind.”

Herkimer County Legislative Chairman Bernie Peplinski finished the session by pointing out a number of positive things that have been happening in Herkimer County. “2018 was a great year.”

From Tractor Supply in the Frankfort Business Park, to the opportunities at the Manheim Business Park, he felt that the County was heading in the right direction.