There is no question that our state, and our nation, has experienced a very historic year and, as we prepare for the New Year, we are faced with unprecedented changes and challenges. But despite these challenges, there are many positive changes happening right here in New York State, and especially in Western New York. As we celebrate the holiday season with our loved ones, I would like to report on some of these successes and reaffirm to all the constituents within the 139th Assembly District of the absolute joy of serving them.
The best part about representing the people of Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, and Orleans counties is meeting with them, hearing their concerns and giving our Western New York community a real voice in Albany. That’s why I held over 27 Town Hall meetings in my first term and I look forward to having even more opportunities to meet with the public during my upcoming second term.
We had many accomplishments as the result of these meetings. Specifically, we told Albany “no” on raising Thruway tolls, fought to restore funds for snowmobilers, and rallied with thousands of truckers on the steps of the State Capitol for the State to cut gasoline prices. We also had many successes in terms of casting a bright light upon the urgent need for economic development in Western New York, and in many instances our fights were triumphant: passing a new New York Racing Association agreement that supports Batavia Downs, bringing home $30 million in Dairy Assistance, pushing forward legislation to protect farmers and provide assistance for weather-related crop loss, and, most recently, ensuring that the 800 jobs at the former Washington Mutual national call center are safe.
Earlier this year, I also hosted what I hope will be the first of many Local Government Conferences, where I brought over 80 of our local community leaders to Albany to meet with state agencies and help foster more open communication and better working relationships so that, together, the state and our local governments can continue to serve you better, more concisely and efficiently, and with less red tape. During our 3-day seminars and meetings we brought home many good, innovative ideas and programs to help our community.
Another great event we held this year was our 4-day bus trip to Washington, D.C. with over 100 local veterans. It was a very special trip for me, visiting our national monuments, and made even more special by having the opportunity to share this experience with my fellow veterans and my father, a member of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma during WWII. The trip marked a very historic year in terms of accomplishments at the state level for veterans, such as reviving the Armed Forces Legislative Caucus and passing extraordinary programs and services for veterans, such as the Veterans Tuition Award. As a member of the caucus and the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am proud to have been a part of these noteworthy accomplishments.
Together, we have proven that we are stronger and we can make real, meaningful changes for our community in Western New York. There is much more to be done, but so far we have delivered many positive changes. Especially as we review, discuss, and negotiate the 2009-10 State Budget, I will be counting on hearing input from the public and I will be proud to bring those messages back to my colleagues in both houses. I wish all of you and your loved ones, especially those serving overseas, a very happy holiday season and thank you for the continued opportunity to do the job I love – serving the people of the 139th Assembly District.