Jan. 17, 2019 – SUNY Broome College – Braving the cold weather and concerns of imminent snowstorm, 5 elected officials from State government, and an aide for the congressional Representative gathered at Decker Hall for the Public Voice event. The politicians returning for a second year were: State Senator Fred Akshar, Assemblyman Cliff Crouch, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, County Executive Jason Garnar. Faith Vavra attended for the newly elected Rep. Brindisi. Each took the opportunity to share issues that they hoped to spend the year legislatively addressing. But the stars of the night were the public.
Much like in 2018, this Public Voice event was squarely about stories and concerns from everyday residents. Passionate stories of teachers concerned about having enough supplies for students. Daycare workers expressing the frustration of parents struggling to afford care for their child, paying bills, and working. Residents struggling with the choice of staying in Broome County or leaving for other States where property and individual taxes are lower, and jobs more plentiful.
One of the highlights of the night was the concerns of a young adolescent boy, accompanying his parents. He spoke about the environment in a statement he proudly claimed was his own words. The politicians present listened intently, taking notes as each member of the community spoke in turn. Other themes currently facing legislation, like gun control, housing, heroin addiction, mental health, and debt spending rounded out much of the remaining comments for the night.
“Looking at the spending. On our State level, our County level, on our City level, we can even say this in the national level for Rep. Brindisi, we are watching this become rampant. Everything, everything we want to do in any of these sectors and in any way we want to improve the quality of life for each of us, cant happen if we have debt that is skyrocketing. $22 trillion for the nation, $378 billion for New York State… it’s just ridiculous. We can’t afford this. And we can’t add new things to it until we take care of the old things first.” – Michael Vasquez (president of M V Consulting, Inc)
These types of civic engagement events are considered opportunities for elected leaders to poll opinions directly from the public on the substantive issues. Equally, this gave the public a personal access point to politicians. SUNY Broome’s Center for Civic Engagement sponsored the event.