JOHNSTOWN - The area's two Democratic congressmen covered issues ranging from agriculture to Medicare and Social Security for an intimate group Friday afternoon at the Shirley J. Luck Senior Citizens Center, telling them they are trying to protect health care.
U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, were in the Glove Cities Friday to meet with constituents, ending their visit with about a dozen seniors, Democratic and public officials assembled at the center. Earlier in the day, they toured Air Jet Technologies in Gloversville.
Instead of speaking at a center podium, the two congressmen grabbed chairs and sat at a table with the seniors.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko sit at a table and speak to the
seniors at the Shirley J.?Luck Senior Citizens Center in Johnstown on Friday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"I'd like to know if they have any ideas on how to get Congress working instead of bickering," Patricia Bender of Johnstown, founder of the Women Democrats, said prior to the event
"I have great respect for the senior community," Tonko said. "Those golden years should be golden."
Owens told the seniors in attendance he wanted to hear their concerns, admitting Congress isn't popular these days.
"People sit back and say, 'What are you doing?'" Owens said. "We have to change the dynamic we are really living in. And that dynamic has to be [positive]."
Due to federal districting, both their seats are due to change.
Tonko represents the 21st District, which includes the Glove Cities, the town of Johnstown and Montgomery County. If re-elected Nov. 6, Tonko would represent the 20th district, which would include only the eastern part of Montgomery County, including Amsterdam and the towns of Mohawk, Glen, Florida and Charleston, along with Fonda, Fultonville and Fort Johnson.
Tonko faces Republican opposition from Bob Dieterich in the general election.
Owens' current 23rd Congressional District includes nine Fulton County towns and Hamilton County. That district will become the new 21st District, and it will include all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.
He faces a general election challenge from Republican Matt Doheny.
During a question-and-answer period, Owens said things several seniors nodded in agreement with.
"Paul and I are very strong on the idea of us making sure we maintain Social Security and Medicare," Owens said.
He said the focus should be on preventive care and keeping people out of hospitals.
"There are ways you can really cut down on Medicare costs and in the meantime have better healthcare outcomes," Owens said.
Tonko said the federal Affordable Care Act has many benefits for Americans, but the discussions in Congress of ending Medicare are "real." He said Congressional members are influenced greatly by super Political Action Committees that lobby with seemingly unlimited resources.
"There are deep pockets that push the process for them," Tonko said.
He said Democratic President Barack Obama inherited a down economy from former Republican President George W. Bush, including 8.2 million jobs lost.
"I think what the people are asking for is sound management," Tonko said. "The people want smart government, efficient government."
Owens said there is a proposed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to assist small farms. He said small farms need more of a choice where their local products can be consumed, such as schools.
Tonko added there has been a cut in federal food inspectors, as well.
"This is where we have to balance this thing," Tonko said. "There [are] important things that government can do."
Tonko, who tackles many alternative energy issues, said the proposed Keystone Pipeline might go directly to Mexico from Canada any bypass the United States.
Owens said he differed from Tonko on the pipeline, adding: "In 15 to 20 years, that could be a very important resource for us."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org