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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Give and take on many topics"
ALBANY, Jan. 27 -- State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and I are about to get started on a series of local, town hall-style meetings that I’ll be holding together with area assemblymen across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions in the weeks and months ahead.
These community meetings get underway this week in Steuben County. On Wednesday, we’ll be at the Howard Town Hall, beginning at 5:30 p.m., to hear from our constituents there. On Thursday, also at 5:30 p.m., we’ll visit the Erwin Town Hall in Painted Post. You can find a more specific listing of the meetings, as well as an updated schedule as we go along, on my Senate website (www.omara.nysenate.gov).
The forums are informal and open to the public. They’re aimed, very simply, at giving local residents, business owners, educators – anyone who wants to attend -- an opportunity to directly share their concerns, opinions and suggestions for better government. We hope constituents will take advantage of the chance to learn more about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently proposed state budget, for example, or share their own thoughts on this year’s debates over taxes, regulations, mandates, economic development, health care and other key issues.
But it’s like the oft-repeated line from Forrest Gump: These meetings are like a box of chocolates; we never know what we’re going to get. However, if the meeting discussions reflect what we’re hearing and reading from area residents by phone, letter and email, we can make a few good guesses.
Common Core may be the hottest topic at the moment. The governor recently called for revisiting the Common Core rollout. The State Senate Education Committee directly questioned State Education Commissioner John King late last week at a public hearing at the Capitol. It gave senators, on a bipartisan basis, the chance to directly deliver the message that’s swiftly taking hold throughout the Legislature: the Common Core implementation has gone too far, too fast, and it’s time to delay it.
But Common Core’s just one hot topic. It’s been a little over one year since the enactment of the NY SAFE Act – which, by the way, I strongly opposed and voted against, and continue to co-sponsor legislation to repeal – and I can tell you that the anger and frustration has not subsided.
The same goes for Albany’s heavy-handedness when it comes to high taxes, overregulation and mandates.
Of course all of the above was stirred anew by Governor Cuomo’s comments during a recent radio interview during which, as widely reported, he wondered aloud of state Republicans, “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives, who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that is who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York. Because that is not who New Yorkers are."
The governor’s comments have proven particularly divisive and inflammatory. I’ve been hearing from many constituents who feel the governor revealed an intolerance toward the strong beliefs and principles they hold together with thousands upon thousands of “conservative” New Yorkers – many citizens, in fact, I’m particularly proud to represent and work alongside to seek a better future for our children and grandchildren in Upstate New York, where many of us were born, raised and still live our lives and try to raise our own families with the same sense of traditions and values.
Governor Cuomo has been fond of talking about “one New York,” so it’s raised questions for many, to say the least, about whether this governor always truly means what he says. It hasn’t helped build the trust that this governor has repeatedly held up as one of the building blocks of effective government for all New Yorkers.
Respecting life, protecting the Second Amendment and continuing to believe in the importance of many long-held traditions are deeply rooted and meaningful commitments across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. We all don’t agree on every single issue, and that’s the way it should be. But the proudly conservative business owners, farmers, grape growers, sportsmen and sportswomen, community leaders, and hard-working taxpayers and families that I hear from, from all walks of life and no matter what their views, have long been and will always be proud New Yorkers who make important contributions to this state’s culture and economy.
One final thought might be this: Many of us simply don’t believe it will ever be any governor’s place to judge if we’re welcome here or not.
So, yes, the community meetings that get underway this week offer the kind of direct give and take that’s fundamental to effective representation. We usually get an earful. That’s good. It’s also an opportunity for us to share information and insights that attendees may not have heard or read anywhere else.
All in all, it’s a good exercise in government, and we always look forward to the input and participation.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field. Not pictured: Mike Yuhasz
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335
Inactive: Michael Yuhasz
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869