Congressman hears from south county

Face the county

Photo by Katrina Fuller: U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, visited Kiantone Independent Fire Department on Saturday morning to give an update and answer questions from the audience.

KIANTONE — While the meeting hall was different, the message of Rep. Tom Reed’s constituents was the same on Saturday morning.

In his third town hall meeting in the immediate area, Reed, R-Corning, was faced with questions and outbursts about health care, consideration of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA and other matters.

Several members of the audience stood up to speak during the meeting and spoke in an elevated voice.

Reed said he is going to continue with town hall meetings because he believes in order to serve people “you’ve got to listen to people.”

In his opening remarks, Reed gave a brief update on what is happening in Washington, D.C. Reed said tax reform is a key issue, as well as the Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that impacted Texas and Florida, respectively.

“Natural disasters are going to occur, and they’re not going to hit one region over another region,” he said. “When we have these situations to stand with our fellow American citizens, I think the right thing to do.”

Reed also gave a brief update on foreign affairs, saying that North Korea is “the No. 1 foreign threat that’s out there.” He said it is unknown what the country’s leader, Kim Jung Un, is capable of, and is desirous of an ICBM, or an intercontinental ballistic missile. The goal is to put as much pressure on North Korea as possible to “make sure that doesn’t occur,” Reed said. He said Iran is also an issue.

Questions that had been collected before had were then chosen for Reed to answer, including some on health care, DACA and immigration and white supremacy.

A member of the audience asked Reed, when considering the president’s moves made on DACA, merit-based immigration and his response to the events in Charlottesville, if President Trump supports white supremacy.

It was also asked why speaking English was a priority in merit-based immigration.

Reed said America is an English-speaking nation for the most part.

“When we’re prioritizing English only, what does that say?” an audience member asked. “To me, that coupled with the response to Charlottesville, Steve Miller, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, the attorney general going after discrimination against white people in college — I mean give me a break — that is white nationalism. That’s what it’s supporting.”

Reed said when his grandfather came to America from Germany, he was required to learn to speak English, which opened up opportunities for him to interact with others and get a job. The audience members said it was not a requirement to learn English before, but rather a choice.

Reed said merit-based immigration is a scale system which would allow those who have a skill set, who are more likely to get a job and be self-sufficient would be put at the “front of the line” to come into the country.

“If you believe we are a nation of white supremacy, you’ve lost what has made America great,” he said. “You’re a young man, and you look at your nation, America, as a white supremacist nation?”

“How could you not?” the audience member countered.

Reed told him that he “feels for him.”

“There is racism out there, but to say that our nation was built on it?” Reed said.

“What was slavery?” the audience member responded. “If you don’t see that there is a systemic problem of racism in America, then I feel for you.”

Reed also discussed his thoughts on DACA.

“I am open to the conversation, when you’re talking about and when you’re talking about young adults who didn’t do anything wrong and find themselves in a situation they did nothing to cause it to occur, to find a solution for them,” he said. “But you cannot, in my opinion, and nor will I support a unilateral solution along those lines. It’s going to require another side of the equation to be brought into the equation and that is border security.”

Reed said anyone who does not believe that there are “bad guys” attempting to get into the country via the border are not living in a world in which they “recognize the reality of the world.”

Health care was addressed several times by constituents, including a question on whether the Faso-Collins Amendment, which would move the costs of Medicaid in New York from the counties to the state, could be a stand-alone issue.

Reed said health care has not gone away and is going to have to be dealt with.

“There’s an opportunity there, down the road, to potentially see if we can get that to the finish line,” he said.

Attendees questioned Reed on the reduction of funds spent on advertising open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act and the restricting the number of days enrollment is allowed. One woman said ads had been run against the Affordable Care Act. Reed said he didn’t believe that was true. Reed said he is currently having conversations about where to allocate funds, and if it came down to a choice between funding for the Alzheimers Association and advertising for “Obamacare,” he would put the funds toward the Alzheimer’s Association.

Another audience member asked if Reed supports the Excelsior Program Gov. Andrew Cuomo created this year. Reed said it is important that people understand the program is not “free.”

“The program that is free is not free,” he said. “Just so we’re on the same page there.”

Reed said he likes to focus on the gross cost, not just the net cost.

A member of the audience asked about the possibility of a state constitutional convention, which Reed invited State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, to speak about because it is a state issue.

“I am not supportive of a state constitutional convention,” Goodell said. “The reason deals with how the representatives are selected. There’s three representatives selected from each senatorial district, and I think there’s 15 at large. The problem we have in New York state is after we have the at-large elections, almost inevitably they come from New York City. Which means when you have the constitutional convention, you’re going to have those swing votes coming from New York City, and I don’t think that bodes well for us. I’m very, very happy that I live in the district that’s the furthest from New York City.”

“Our president is from New York City,” a member of the audience called out.

Eddie Sundquist, Reed’s opponent was in attendance at the meeting as well.