PULASKI - Lots of issues and questions were hurled at Rep. Anthony Brindisi at his town hall July 30 in Pulaski.
The longest discussions out of the 20 questions Brindisi heard during his two-hour town hall were about the infamous Plan 2014 and flooding along Lake Ontario and the opioid and drug crisis. In fact, Plan 2014, which went into effect in 2017 to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, was the fourth question asked during the forum, which surprised many — including Brindisi, D-Utica, who represents the eastern half of Oswego County.
“I thought that would be the first question,” he said.
Brindisi clearly voiced his frustration with the International Joint Commission — the joint Canada and United States group that monitors lake levels and decides when to let water out of the lake to alleviate flooding.
Many — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo — blame the IJC’s Plan 2014 for flooding along the lake and St. Lawrence in 2017 and again this year.
Plan 2014 was approved by both the U.S. and Canadian governments as a way to allow a more natural flow of water levels and improve wetland ecosystems. However, it received criticism from advocates who claimed the higher water levels could increase the risk of flooding on the southern shores of Lake Ontario.
The summer of 2017 saw massive flooding along the shore, with homes, camps and businesses lost. The year 2018 was OK, although water levels were still high. This year has seen flooding and water levels in Lake Ontario higher and worse than 2017.
“Plan 2014 is a big problem,” Brindisi said at his town hall meeting. “In March, we saw this train coming. We sent a letter (to the IJC) and there was no response. In April, we sent a letter and there was no response.”
Brindisi said the problem with Plan 2014 is the triggers for releasing water out of Lake Ontario are too high. The plan states the IJC will not begin outflows from the lake until it reaches 246 feet.
“Well at 246 feet, already some parts of Lake Ontario are flooded,” he said. “There are variables they have to account for, like how much snow there was during the winter and how much rain there was in the spring.”
Brindisi said the Canadians on the IJC (there are three Canadian commissioners and three U.S. commissioners) believe the plan to regulate water levels should first look at the environment and shipping concerns. Brindisi disagrees.
“My number one priority is the health, safety and property of those living along the Lake Ontario shoreline,” he said. “We have got to get the Canadians to agree with us.”
In a meeting with IJC commissioners July 12, Brindisi and Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, got the IJC to agree to review Plan 2014 to see if changes to it should be made. But, the commissioners said this review could take a year.
Brindisi said he will work to get the IJC to move a bit faster and come up with a conclusion in much less than a year. He also told the 87 people at the town hall in the Pulaski High-Middle School auditorium that the White House is aware to the Plan 2014 problem.
Other issues discussed at the town hall were:
n Lack of oversight by the federal department of Health and Human Services on prescription drugs and especially opioids. Brindisi said one of the biggest problems in the pharmaceutical industry today is legislators taking money from the companies and becoming beholden to whatever the companies want. He said he doesn’t take contributions and donations from corporations.
“We have got to get the money out of this,” he said.
He also said he believes parents have the right to make informed decisions on their children’s health and whether they should be vaccinated.
n Concerning a question about how a wind farm project in Redfield and the Jefferson County town of Worth will affect Fort Drum, Brindisi said he will work with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, to ensure Fort Drum is not harmed by a wind farm. He called Fort Drum not only key to our nation’s defense, but also a driving force in the Central New York and Northern New York economy.
n Brindisi said he is not in favor of a Medicare for All health system for the United States, mostly because of its cost which he said is about $32 trillion.
n Brindisi said he doesn’t support impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
n Brindisi said he welcomes a new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
n Brindisi is not in favor or late term abortions unless it is needed to save the life of the mother.
n Brindisi said he favors a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
n Brindisi said he is for green technology such as solar and wind. But for any more green power sources to come to New York — which will bring more jobs — he said the first thing that must be done is the outdated power grid in the state has to be updated. He said right now, some power being generated “is dumped before it’s put on the grid” because the outdated system can’t handle it. “More green technology means more jobs and we need to create jobs and help the environment,” he said.