Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reed/Shinagawa Debate in Geneva NY

GENEVA, NY:   Put two candidates face to face, ask them questions and watch and listen. That’s what was offered at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on October 26 because of the efforts of college students.
                Tom Reed and Nate Shinagawa, our congressional candidates, carried out the debate arranged by David Luna and Olivia Lowenberg, co-presidents of HWS Votes. Questions were submitted by students and faculty at HWS and reviewed by a bi-partisan committee. Candidates were informed about general areas of concern and not actual questions
                Moderator, Professor Iva Deutchman, required that the 450 in attendance hold applause until the end to save time. Later, Shinagawa asked the audience to be respectful when they disrupted Reed’s answers with their laughter.
                Shinagawa and Reed were greeting with a standing ovation and then each made an opening statement. Shinagawa said that as Chairman of the Thompkins County Budget Committee he helped pass a budget on time with a 13% reduction in the tax rate.
                 In reference to his family, Shinagawa said that his grandfather fought for the US in the Korean and Vietnam wars and when he came home he found a job but current vets are not finding employment when they return, in part because Reed continually votes to give tax incentives to companies that move American jobs overseas.
                Reed opened by saying that he hoped the conversation would focus on a vision of America moving forward and getting people to work in the private sector. He accused Shinagawa of wanting strong public sector programs but said we really need to cut the debt and get out of this fiscal hole.
Question 1: The Finger Lakes contain some of the cleanest drinking water in the country. How will you work to protect our water?
                Reed said that he owns his grandpa’s cottage on Keuka Lake and his son now fishes there the way he once did. He would not hurt this area but he wants local governments to regulate their own regions and to be able to champion private sector investment with strong, local environmental oversight.
                Shinagawa said that Reed voted against a bill to allow the EPA to regulate fracking and that fracking is more than a water issue. It’s a jobs issue. Fracking jobs are short term, boom-and-bust jobs that leave the tax payer with the clean up bill.
                Shinagawa would invest in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, all of which are helping the Finger Lakes area grow and all would be threatened by fracking.

Question 2: What are your thoughts on Obama’s policies in the Middle East? Is the situation there more or less settled than it was 4 years ago?
                Shinagawa said that the situation is too complex for a 3 minute answer but generally we could have helped Lybya but Mr. Reed voted no.
                Syria needs to be dealt with but it’s hard to tell who can be trusted in that arena.
                Economic pressures are working in Iran and he named some specifics to illustrate that.
                Reed retorted that he voted against involvement in Lybya because he didn’t see the reason to go there. He feels there is no consistency if the US treats Syria one way and Lybya another way and Iran another way. “Engagement in foreign countries has to be consistent from one country to another. We also have to always be strong.”

Question 3: Do you think the federal government has a responsibility to reduce gasoline prices?
                Reed said we need a comprehensive energy policy to give a long term, stable supply of domestic fuel. The Federal Reserve is pumping money into the economy which weakens the dollar and increases gas prices and now families are hurting.  We have a 150 year supply of natural gas here so we should use that and retrofit long haul trucks to use natural gas.
                Shinagawa said that he understand that the price of gas is an issue since he has driven over 50,000 miles during his candidacy but he didn’t understand Reed’s position since Reed voted against a bill requiring keeping American natural gas in America.  Reed also voted to support liquefying natural gas and sending it to Asia.
                Shinagawa said the federal government has put in regulations to increase fuel efficiency and we need to keep American fuels in America but also recognize that oil and gas are short term solutions and we need long term, forward ideas like renewable energy.

Question 4:   Seneca Lake is the best attraction we have. How will you protect the lake?
                Shinagawa said that he has worked with Barbara Lifton to protect the latke and surroundings towns for years. One thing he did was to protect towns from the high truck traffic that moves New York City’s garbage to the Seneca landfill. He worked to make trucks use truck routes.
                The trucking for garbage though is nothing like the industrialization of the area that fracking would cause so he would not allow the industrialization of the Finger Lakes area. He would protect existing agriculture and tourism industries.
                Shinagawa would continue his work to eradicate the invasive water plant, hydrilla, which made its way into the Finger Lakes. Now small towns have to use local funds to deal with this plant piecemeal when the federal government could create one coordinated plan.
                Reed said that we need jobs and secure energy sources for manufacturers to protect the area. We need fracking but it’s okay to preserve the Finger Lakes and to frack in other areas.
                Reed said that we can’t keep putting up protective walls to limit development in the private sector.
                In a rebuttal, Sinagawa said that Reed’s policies benefit large corporations but hurt the local people. In Pennsylvania, when fracking operations are nearby, business owners can’t refinance. Wineries continually tell him that if fracking starts, they are out of business. These local jobs need protection.
                Reed rebutted saying that was not true. He lives in this area and he will protect the Finger Lakes.

Question 5: Geneva’s recent economic growth has been driven by grass roots businesses. How will you help grass roots business in this area?
                Reed said we need four things.
                 1. Create competitive private sector jobs and control the debt.
                 2. Stop regulations like the TMDL standards (These regulate how much toxic run off is allowed into a water system.)
                Reed said, “We are all for clean water but we can’t do it with regulations.”
                3. Reform the tax code because a fiscal cliff is causing uncertainty. We can’t have 2 year or 10 year plans. We need simplified tax codes.
                4. We need to develop domestic energy sources.
                Shinagawa asked if the question was about sustainable, local jobs and the moderator said yes.  Shinagawa said that he’s a member of the Development Corporation in Thompkins County and has worked closely with small businesses (Ithaca Beer Co and the Courtland Produce Co) to help them grow with low interest loans.
                Shinagawa also said that the Affordable Health Care Act helped those companies get less expensive heath care policies by grouping together.
                “We also have to reduce the cost of education or our citizens but Mr. Reed has voted to reduce Pell Grants and to double student loan interest rates.”
                In a rebuttal, Reeds said all we need for economic development is lower taxes.

Question 6:  Why do you think that congressional approval rates are so low?
                Shinagawa said that congress hasn’t done much to help create jobs. Shinagawa said that Reed hasn’t written and passed a single piece of legislation during his tenure. He said that Washington is in constant fight mode and constant campaign mode. Shinagawa wants to limit campaign time and force congress to work.
                Reed said that he is known for being bi-partisan but that Shinagawa is obviously partisan because Shinagawa speaks of wanting democrats to always work together.
                “It’s frustrating to see the bickering,” Reed said. He said that he is constantly trying to get people in Washington to talk and listen and work together.
                In rebuttal, Shinagawa said that Reed voted with Republicans 93% of the time and that Reed identifies with the Tea Party and their stated agenda to obstruct the president.

Question 7:  How has redistricting affected the way you campaign?
                Reed said, “We are campaigning just like we did 3 years ago. You need to sit down and talk with the tea party members to understand how they feel. We support a vibrant private sector.”
                Reed said he travels the district and talks with the people.
                Shinagawa said that he began his campaign by going to the people he worked with to help them rebuild after Hurricane Lee. These people convinced him to run.
                Shinagawa has been endorsed by mayors of every major city in the district, including Corning. He has talked with people and knows they care about medical care, pensions and jobs and that he wants to protect Medicare from the voucher system that Reed supports.
Question 8:  What is one issue on which you’d break with your party?
                Shinagawa said that we have gun laws and we should enforce those and not write new ones.
                Also, when Elliot Spitzer was governor, Shinagawa organized a demonstration to force Spitzer to make healthcare focus on patients and not profit. Spitzer told Shinagawa that if he followed through, he would be forced out of politics in New York State. Shinagawa ignored him and held the demonstration.
                Reed said the broke with his party by supporting STEM (an agency that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Reed feels that the US has to develop an educated workforce in those areas.

Closing Statements:
                Shinagawa said that he and Reed are different. Reed supports an end to the guaranteed medical coverage created by Medicare. Reed supports doubling the interest rates on student loans and Reed supports incentives for companies to ship American jobs overseas. Reed is anti middle class.
                Shinagawa said that we need jobs here and need to end free trade and seek fair trade agreements. We need to look to the future with sustainable energy which we could research, develop and manufacture right here. We need Social Security and Medicare and we need to deal with spending by getting accountability in the Pentagon’s budget. We should close some of those cold war era military bases overseas and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.
                Reed said, “There is an attempt to label us as anti middle class but I was the youngest of 12 children and my mother raised 6 of us by herself after Dad died.”
                Reed said that after his father died, his mother depended on two government programs - Social Security and a military pension - so he surely understands the middle class.
                Reed said that if we tax the top 2% of wage earners we’d get about $70 billion but we need over a trillion so it just wouldn’t make enough difference.

                There was no attempt to determine a winner and both candidates engaged in conversation and photo ops with supporters for about 30 minutes after the debate.