It may be a rough road to re-election for U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.
Not only will the Corning Republican be facing a Nate Shinagawa, a Tompkins County Democrat who won convincingly primary night, but he is going to have to keep Chautauqua County in mind during the remainder of his term in Congress.
Reed's district, which currently ends in Cattaraugus County, gets larger next year. It will stretch across the Southern Tier from Tioga County to the west, making it one of the largest in the state in terms of distance. Comprised of 11 counties, either Shinagawa or Reed will have to consider many different constituents, all from very different places.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed wants to help repair Interstate 86.
Another hurdle in Reed's bumpy road to re-election is driving here. Anyone who has traveled east on Interstate 86 knows the highway is a disgrace once you get past Onoville and enter the Seneca Nation reservation.
Some believe the unspoken reason for the poor condition of the road has to do with recent tax battles between the two factions.
"We weighed in to the governor's office as to, 'Hey look it, let's try to resolve this,' '' Reed said in a recent visit to the OBSERVER regarding the interstate. "We're trying to be a mediator between the Nation and the state saying that if there are issues here, we would love to get everyone in the room ... and get this resolved. ... This is getting to a level where it's a real public safety threat."
Another "threat" to the district is a lack of private investment. A trip along Interstate 86 from Jamestown to Allegany County presents an unfortunate picture of what happens when high tax burdens of local governments and too many school districts become overwhelming. People move away, which leads to properties deteriorating and a lack of traffic.
Two months ago, while making a broadcast appearance on WDOE-AM's "Viewpoint" I even made the suggestion of calling the area the "desolate district" since it is so empty and, in some parts, downtrodden.
Reed, however, is not as pessimistic about the region and believes we can bring back a manufacturing component in the future. "If you give people low cost, stable utility rates, it makes it much more attractive to invest here," he said. "And they're itching to invest here."
Pointing to conversations he has had with chief executive officers from major U.S. companies, he said there is a shift taking place in how those firms are looking at their business models.
Most notably, Reed said the gap in the labor differentials in Mexico and China are decreasing while shipping and travel expenses have increased. In addition, business are manufacturing in countries that "have no rule or law, they rip them off blind and steal their intellectual property. ... It has all created an environment where (these companies) want to come back to America."
But will companies locate in a high-taxed region like ours?
"There is a potential," Reed says, "but we have to work with our state officials so that they want to come here. ... We need long-term policies that will make New York competitive."
Some of those long-term policies, however, must begin with local decisions and a reduced tax burden. That will be the responsibility of the numerous local governments and schools.
Reed is a federal official. As such, he cannot control or repair the poor decisions of local officials who just throw up their hands and raise taxes.
U.S. companies are seriously looking at investing more on American land. Our area, Reed says, has "potential."
Our area's "potential" loses its luster every time elected officials raise taxes because we refuse to become more efficient in the way our governments or school districts operate. Those are local decisions that lack foresight and hurt this area today.
We cannot continue this path that damages our tomorrows.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.