GERMANTOWN—U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19th) held his 62nd town hall in his 11-county district at Palatine Park on Tuesday evening, August 17. Approximately 70 people attended.
The congressman opened the session with remarks about the situation in Afghanistan faulting a “lack of execution” and failure to “leave with dignity” while acknowledging surprise at “how fast the collapse [of the Afghan government] occurred.” Mr. Delgado said that our “number one focus” is to “make sure we get our folks home” during this “trying period.”
The congressman also mentioned two bills that will be taken up in the House immediately following Congress’ recess, The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill and the Infrastructure Bill, which recently passed in the Senate. While touting bipartisan support for the Infrastructure Bill, Mr. Delgado noted, “It’s not been easy but I try to find common ground. We can’t get anything done if we can’t work together.”
Before answering constituents’ questions the congressman touted the Direct Support for Communities legislation he co-sponsored, which allots $400 million to the 19th District for communities that were ineligible to receive funding through the previous CARES legislation. Those earlier funds were limited to municipalities with at least half a million people. No Columbia County communities have populations that large.
The congressman fielded 12 questions that covered: climate change and its economic impact, provisions in the Infrastructure Bill, voting rights, the proposed Amtrak wall, the impact of enhanced unemployment benefits on small business hiring and Social Security solvency.
Caitlyn, a self-employed young woman from Clermont, asked if expanded Medicare benefits and earlier age eligibility provisions currently in the Infrastructure Bill were likely to survive a final House vote. Rep. Delgado responded that expanded Medicare benefits, including vision care and hearing aids, have a “good chance” but was less optimistic that younger Medicare enrollment would survive the final House vote.
Several questions centered on climate change. One woman cited a United Nations report that called for “drastic changes beyond solar panels and electric cars.” She also noted differences within the Democratic Party on how to deal with climate change.
The congressman responded that the fight has moved beyond “Is Climate Change Real?” He added that the task now is to reduce carbon emissions “in a robust way” and to build a more sustainable green economy with good jobs. Another woman asked if pricing carbon was feasible. Rep. Delgado qualified that solution by saying it “can’t marginalize small farming communities” and called pricing carbon a “disincentive on the front end.” He added, “Telling someone who works in the fossil fuel industry to move on does not work; [that person] must feel included.”
The congressman engaged in an extended back-and-forth with Steven Brown of Germantown about the impact of government regulations on the energy sector. Mr. Brown, who said that he worked in the energy field for 50 years, thought government regulations “dampened” the market and shouldn’t have been employed “until necessary.” Mr. Delgado countered that there shouldn’t be a market concentration that “squeezes out competition.” He added that government regulations sometimes help the market and cited the example of the auto industry, which did not support Trump Administration efforts to discontinue mileage standards “because the industry saw that the market liked energy efficient cars.”
Mike, a Rhinebeck businessman, identified enhanced unemployment benefits as the source of his hiring problems. He said that he has been advertising for a lawn mower technician since late July and has not received any applications. Mike added that in 43 years, 2021 would be “the first year my sales go down.”
Mr. Delgado responded that the “bump up” was not the only reason for hiring difficulties. He cited pre-pandemic data from the Oswego Chamber of Commerce stating that 2 – 3 thousand jobs, annually, could not be filled. He cited other factors like childcare needs, workforce training and people re-evaluating career choices. The congressman also blamed immigration policy saying, “We must create opportunities to expand the workforce.”
To a question on his stance about increased federal spending adding to government debt and deficits, Rep. Delgado said that he is guided by “What is the return long term? The trade off may be a short term hit.”
‘It’s not been easy but I try to find common ground.’
U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D)
19th Congressional District
He also noted that tax policy can add to government debt. He cited the 2017 tax reform bill and faulted it for “stagnant wages” and corporations using the “majority of the money for stock buy backs.”
To several questions about Amtrak blocking public access to the Hudson River by walling off its stations, Congressman Delgado said that his office is in constant communication with the agency. He agreed with a constituent, who said that the pandemic has increased people’s appreciation of nature, and agreed that walling off public access to the Hudson shoreline runs counter to the impacted communities’ desires.
To Tracey from Niverville, who expressed dismay about Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema blocking voting rights legislation, Mr. Delgado said that he was confident that a pared down voting rights bill that included restoration of the pre-clearance standard would be passed. He faulted the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning that pre-clearance was no longer necessary. He likened that reasoning to thinking an umbrella was no longer necessary when raining because the umbrella had shielded away the rain in the past.
John Breault of Chatham thanked the congressman for his efforts to help four north Columbia County communities get nearly $1 million funding for broadband expansion in New Lebanon, Canaan, Austerlitz and Chatham.
Bill White of Livingston asked the congressman to support the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act to prevent reduction of social security benefits. Mr. Delgado acknowledged that the pandemic has “hurt” social security solvency through a cycle of fewer workers and less job creation.
Roger, a doctor, asked regarding Covid vaccinations, “How do you convince people that safety is not a partisan issue?” Rep. Delgado described the internet and social media as silos of information—“a morass” that contributes to a “growing level of mistrust about government.” But he credited the empowerment of county health officials, whose familiarity with local actors, enabled people to listen to them. He added that more community based projects like the North Columbia County broadband expansion could foster “connectivity with the federal government.”