The Watertown Daily Times wrote a Thursday editorial which suggested that local issues in the 23rd Congressional District race were being overshadowed by national interests.
Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party's candidate, had the misfortune of visiting the Times that day without reading the editorial. As the next day's editorial said, Mr. Hoffman showed "no grasp" of the issues broached.
I've offered Mr. Hoffman's camp what is, in essence, a redo - a chance to mull the issues raised outside the rapid-fire of an editorial board meeting. They're considering it. And, for the sake of our readers, I hope they do it.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hoffman's two opponents have responded to the editorial by giving their take. Republican Dede Scozzafava - likely because she's had years to get educated about these issues during her tenure as Gouverneur village mayor and state Assemblywoman - offered the clearest, most definitive positions.
Bill Owens, the Democrats' candidate, gave some substance, but left other questions unanswered.
■ How do you feel about federal attempts to widen and deepen the St. Lawrence Seaway to accommodate larger oceangoing ships?
Dede Scozzafava: I will oppose efforts to widen and deepen the Saint Lawrence Seaway to accommodate oceangoing ships. As demonstrated by past events, this type of project will bring unavoidable environmental consequences to our North Country communities, while others will reap the long-term economic benefits further down the Great Lakes system. Our fishers and boaters will be the long-term losers from such a project. That being said, we must continue to conduct much needed maintenance and ensure that all maintenance efforts be carried out in an environmentally sound way.
Bill Owens: The St. Lawrence Seaway is critical to our local economy and has a significant impact on our day to day lives here in the North Country. Federal officials need to work closely with local officials when it comes to the Seaway so that we're not infringing on property rights or environmental protections when it comes to the Seaway. Whether we're addressing winter navigation proposals, considering widening and deepening the Seaway, or dealing with invasive species that are hurting local industry as well as the environment, I will address these and other issues by gathering input from local officials so that whatever federal action is taken has the best interests of Upstate New York in mind at all times.
■ Do you support winter navigation in the Seaway?
DS: I do not support operating the Seaway for 12 months a year.
BO: See above.
■ How would you help protect the waterway from encroachment of invasive species?
DS: The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation has taken an important first step by requiring all ocean-going vessels to flush their ballast water before entering the Seaway System. However, more needs to be done. I will support new requirements, coupled with tax incentives that spur innovation, to advance new technology to reach no ballast on-board standards from large ocean going ships. In the state assembly, I've been supportive of efforts addressing various invasive species and their impact on our waterways.
BO: See above.
■ Where do you stand on the development of a rooftop highway from Watertown to Plattsburgh?
BO: I am a strong supporter of I-98. This represents the kind of investment in infrastructure we need to be making right now. It will help create jobs and will also bolster our economy by opening up transportation lanes for commerce.
DS: I have long supported the development of the Rooftop Highway from Watertown to Plattsburgh. We have already seen the first important step of this project with the allocation of funding and construction of the Fort Drum Connector Road. I will work to authorize and fund the Rooftop Highway, also referred to as 1-98, which will spur both short and long term job creation in the North Country.
Doug Hoffman: The I-98 /“Rooftop Highway” is an issue that has been on the table for close to 50 years. There is no easy answer that can be fit into a few lines. The first and perhaps biggest question is what is the real cost of this project and can we realistically expect to find funding for it. Once that question is addressed, a whole range of other issues arise including: the highway's actual route and it's impact on communities, individual's property rights, the environment, how quickly it will impact the economy and the magnitude of impact vs. the magnitude of cost. Finally, an analysis of benefits compared with other worthy infrastructure projects that may be on this table. As, Congressman I will work closely with all levels of government; local, state and federal, as well as with non-governmental organizations and private citizens to identify the solution that best serves the economy and the people of the 23rd Congressional District.
■ Would you approve of plans to transform the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. into a federal power-marketing entity, as proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio?
DS: No, I do not approve of plans to transform the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), as proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur. First, this proposal will drastically change and redefine the mandate of the SLSDC. The hardworking employees of the SLSDC are valued residents of Massena. This plan will shift their core mission away from the North Country. Now is not the time to enact policies that will likely shift jobs outside of our region. Secondly, Rep. Kaptur has made comments indicating that this new entity could be used as a mechanism to expand the physical footprint of the Seaway, which I do not support.
BO: No answer given.
■ What factors should determine the location of power-generating facilities in the rural district? Should any areas be off-limits?
DS: We need to bolster the opportunity for public input on decisions regarding the location of power generating facilities. The public's input is needed and invaluable. That is why I have cosponsored and worked to enact such legislation. We must also strike a balance between the needs for developing new energy sources, respecting our local communities, and preserving and protecting the environment.
BO: No answer given.
■ How should the routing of electrical transmission lines to convey power from rural to urban areas be located and permitted?
DS: The state of New York, not the federal government, must be the final entity determining the placement of power lines. Local residents must have a strong voice in this process, and I will work with local landowners and communities to ensure that their private property rights are respected and protected.
BO: No answer given.
■ Will you commit to protecting the power generated at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam that makes possible thousands of jobs in Northern New York?
DS: Yes, I will commit to protecting the power generated at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam and oppose efforts to shift power out of state. I was a sponsor of legislation in the assembly that committed power to the North Country.
BO: No answer given.
■ How do you stand on border issues? Should security override citizens' desire to travel freely between Northern New York and Canada and the need for smooth commercial travel? Should the federal government interrupt fishing trips, picnics and boating excursions in the name of protecting the border?
DS: We must strike an appropriate balance that recognizes the need for security along the northern border while also remaining mindful of the legitimate commerce and trade that occurs every day. Border security policies and procedures justifiably changed after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, but we must recognize the historical, free relationship between the United States and Canada, our largest trading partner. I will work to modernize border-crossing facilities that will reduce wait times, and advocate for pre-clearance screening stations for trucks. Like most in the North Country, I feel that many government regulations are written by people who have never lived or worked in the environment that will be regulated. A prime example is the over-burdensome “report in” regulations placed on fisherman, who must show appropriate documentation if they merely drop anchor in Canadian waters. I will also support efforts to harmonize border document crossing requirements for both land and sea travel, including those used by tour boat and fishing captains. However, I will staunchly work with my colleagues to oppose illegal cross border activities, such as the smuggling of marijuana and cigarettes.
BO: No answer given.
■ Acid Rain:
BO: Green energy initiatives have been a large focus of my campaign. Investments in green energy will not only help us create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil but they'll also reduce toxic emissions that cause acid rain in the Adirondacks. That is why I support the American Clean Energy and Security Act that was passed earlier this year with Secretary McHugh's support. This bill, thanks to McHugh's leadership, took important steps toward protecting the Adirondacks from acid rain caused by toxic emissions. In addition, the bill also made significant investments in the green energy industry, and we need to continue to encourage these types of initiatives so that we can create jobs here in our region.
DS: One of my legislative priorities will be to combat acid rain by continuing the work of Congressmen McHugh and Boehlert. Aside from acid rain destroying forests, killing fish and poisoning water, many scientific studies have identified a relationship between elevated levels of the fine particles that cause acid rain and increased illness and premature death from such heart and lung disorders as asthma and bronchitis. While this scourge impacts all parts of Northern and Central New York, it has a particularly devastative impact on the Adirondack Park. I will encourage the use of every tool, whether administrative, judicial, or legislative, to combat acid rain, caused principally by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and mercury precipitation from coal fired power plants. The time is now to enact strict reduction requirements, as true opportunities to amend the Clean Air Act are few and far between.
■ Water Levels:
DS: If elected, I will be the only Member of Congress representing the American portion of the St. Lawrence River, as well as a majority of Lake Ontario's shoreline. Therefore, I will strongly urge the International Joint Commission to select Plan B+ as the appropriate water level management plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. For nearly 50 years, the Moses-Saunders hydro-dam has greatly changed the region's natural ecosystem, and Plan B+ would allow the Lake and River to return to a state experienced before the dam was constructed while also extending our summer boating season.
BO: No answer given.
■ Wind Power:
DS: Wind power has an important role to play as our nation expands its renewable energy portfolio. I will support the efforts of local communities to ensure the proper placement of wind farms, through targeted tax incentives.
BO: See "acid rain" answer above, as well as Bill's Web site, where it says: "Upstate New York has already taken strides to promote a green energy economy, and that's creating good paying jobs for working families across the state. Whether it is solar, wind, biomass or other technologies, our Congressional District is already up and running with a green energy industry. We need to promote more of this kind of investment so we can continue to create better paying jobs for Upstate New York."
■ Fort Drum:
DS: Throughout my service I have been a strong supporter of our men and women in uniform as well as our veterans. I will serve as the voice for members of the Fort Drum community, the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division and their families as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
During the last of round of BRAC, I fought to ensure that Fort Drum remained open and I will continue that fight to make certain that Fort Drum remains a premier power projection platform. When our country needs its brave fighting men and women, the 10th Mountain Division will be equipped, prepared and ready to climb to glory.
I will work with regional entities such as the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization to ensure increases in the military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and establish a home equity insurance program to help protect against home sale losses when military families relocate during down housing markets.
BO: No answer given, but he does say on his Web site: "The talent, workforce and resources housed at and around Fort Drum make the base a tremendous economic engine for the region. As a Member of Congress, I will fight to keep Fort Drum strong so it can continue to be the engine of our local economy for years to come."
DS: In Washington I will serve as an aggressive advocate for veterans. It is incumbent upon us to deliver the benefits that were promised to them, including healthcare and resources for their family members. I will work to improve communications between veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that facilities have adequate staffing levels. I will also work to enact policies that ensure veterans are properly treated for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that we fight any stigma associated with receiving such treatment; that reduce the backlog of disability claims; and that provide for job counseling.
BO: No answer given, but his position on veterans' issues is laid out on his Web site.
BO: Dairy farmers are critical to our economy but right now they're struggling. That's why I've called for an investigation into price fixing because while milk prices for consumers remain high, our farmers are being paid less and less for the milk they're producing. We need to make sure they're getting a fair price for their milk. We also need to increase aid for farmers who are struggling with falling prices and support federal efforts to purchase surplus cheese and other products our farmers are producing.
DS: Throughout my service and my campaign, I have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the issues that matter most to the agriculture community. In the State Assembly, I was named to the Farm Bureau's “Circle of Friends” list for my pro-farming positions. I co-sponsored legislation to prevent property tax increases on farms and fought to get $30 million in aid for our struggling farmers. As a key component of my congressional campaign, I have vowed to protect and expand federal aid to farmers and stated my clear opposition to the burdensome and ineffective regulations included in the cap and trade bill.
In Washington, I will: