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Scozzafava fields questions at JCC event


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has dispatched top officials around the state to pitch his ambitious 2012 agenda and field input from different regions of the state.

His administration will have a few ideas on state government after Deputy Secretary of State Dierdre K. Scozzafava’s visit Thursday to Jefferson Community College in Watertown.

“I hear what you’re saying, and we’re going to take that back,” Ms. Scozzafava said in response to one particular concern in a 45-minute address and question-and-answer session.

After Ms. Scozzafava’s remarks, which mostly reiterated the governor’s State of the State address last week, she fielded questions and concerns from the audience of about two dozen people, many of whom were elected officials. Ms. Scozzafava is the deputy secretary of state for local governments.

The concerns ranged from perennial problems, such as difficulties negotiating with labor unions, to the local: Are small, rural locales able to compete with other parts of the state? And are they getting their fair share?

Cheryl A. Mayforth, executive director of the Jefferson-Lewis Workforce Investment Board, noted that the governor’s initiative to put inner-city youth to work didn’t address unemployment problems in rural locales.

“It’s good news for Buffalo and Rochester, it’s not such great news for us,” Mrs. Mayforth said. “We’re not eligible to participate in the program. But I just want to reiterate how important the programs are.”

In December, Mr. Cuomo announced the “NY Youth Works” program, with $25 million in tax credits and $62 million for job training programs for youths in cities around the state, including Utica and Syracuse, but not Watertown.

The Workforce Investment Board put about 100 people ages 14 to 21 to work at businesses, nonprofits and municipalities. It receives most of its funding through the federal government, which has been cut. It also receives state money and last year received money from a Cuomo-led effort to increase summer employment.

“I’ll make sure that I take that message back, Cheryl,” Ms. Scozzafava said.

Carole A. McCoy, Jefferson Community College president, expressed concerns that smaller organizations will have trouble competing in many of the governor’s initiatives. Mr. Cuomo has put an emphasis on competition, arguing that it’s important to get results.

“I very much applaud the ideas of competing and being accountable,” Mrs. McCoy said. “On the other hand, small organizations, we’re struggling to compete. You need a grant writer. You need someone who collects the data.”

The north country received $103.2 million, one of the top awards in the 10-region competitive grant process that was part of the governor’s 2011 budget.

“We certainly saw our North Country Regional Economic Development Council, I would daresay that the resources at Clarkson let us to do that,” Mrs. McCoy said. “We’re immensely appreciative for the analysis and the data that had to be put together.”

“If you take small towns and villages, your part-time mayor or town supervisor, you might not be able to afford grant writing or might not know which exist,” Ms. Scozzafava said. “It makes it difficult to compete in that type of environment. We tossed around a few ideas and suggestions that I think we’re going to take back.”

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