The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual State of the State town hall forum virtually Tuesday, Jan. 5, featuring U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, as the keynote speaker.
“I’m very humbled and honored to be able to serve again in New York’s 19th Congressional District,” Delgado said, in reference to his November victory over Republican challenger Kyle Van De Water.
“I don’t think a lot of great ideas come out of Washington,” Delgado said. “I think most of them happen on the ground in the districts we represent in Congress, and it’s important to stay connected to folks on the ground that brought us here in the first place.”
Delgado thanked former Otsego County Chamber President and CEO Barbara Ann Heegan for her service on his small business advisory committee and saluted former state Sen. James Seward for his 34-year career.
“He has an enormous legacy of public service and his leadership will surely be missed,” Delgado said of Seward.
Delgado preached the importance of bipartisanship and on-the-ground outreach.
“These are difficult times we’re living in,” he said. “We, as leaders, have the responsibility to rise up and meet the moment. I’m going to extend a hand to anybody and everybody who wants to do that.”
Delgado pledged his continued support for expanding access to health care and broadband and the development of the local workforce and infrastructure.
“There is a bias here in Washington for urban, densely populated and suburban centers, and we don’t have enough emphasis from the district here at home about how to get real support for things like broadband, for things like cell service,” Delgado said.
“This has been done before,” he continued, citing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act, which wired every home and household for electricity in 1936. “No child should have to go to a McDonald’s parking lot to download their homework, whether it’s pre-pandemic, during the pandemic or after.”
Newly elected state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, agreed with Delgado’s priorities, citing “broadband, broadband, broadband” as his own top three issues.
“I am a seated New York state senator who will not have broadband at my house,” he said.
“The state is going to be dealing with real financial challenges and there are no easy answers,” Oberacker continued, acknowledging the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “The state must tap the expertise of our local elected leaders and business owners who are on the front lines — you know firsthand what works and what doesn’t work.”
“I agree with you wholeheartedly that we have a lot of work to do, and we need to reach across the aisle in order to get things done,” said Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield. “I’m hoping that when we get back to Albany that we’ll be able to work together. We’ll be able to put the partisanship aside. We’re going to realize that legislation, if it’s good legislation — whether it comes from a Republican or it comes from a Democrat — deserves attention, deserves debate, deserves to be considered.”
“As everyday people have done their part to support their neighbors and small businesses, we in government must do our part to manage and recover from the impacts of COVID-19, in every way possible,” said Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie.
“Yes, these have been very challenging and very tough times, but what I have seen all throughout NY-19 is this can-do spirit, this sense of compassion, this sense of love for community,” Delgado said.
“How do we come together? How do we figure out how to support each other? How do we do the work to uplift our community through these challenging times?” Delgado continued. “I have seen that on every single visit that I have made in every county all across this sprawling district, and certainly I’ve seen it in Otsego County. It’s inspiring, and we can’t lose sight of that fact.”
“If there’s any positive spin whatsoever to this pandemic, it’s that people have learned how to work together. People have learned how to help each other through thick and thin, through this horrible pandemic,” Salka said. “I’m hoping that we can take that lesson, we can take that momentum, we can take that goodwill and continue it so that we can make New York state and our communities better places to live.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213.