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Friday, March 04, 2005

Randy Kuhl Town Meeting

Randy Kuhl
Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.

Randy Kuhl’s Town Meeting: WOW Randy looked great and the turnout to see him was impressive. Two full rows of local people who came to ask questions and listen to what Randy had to say. I was impressed by the interest from our town, but we have a soft spot for Randy Kuhl. The US Representative has roots here in town which endears him to Lindley, but mostly because Randy Kuhl is one of those rare politicians who is good for his word and has always worked at trying to solve problems in Lindley. Randy established himself through his Town Meetings as a politician who actually wants to hear from his constituents. And the fact that he moved up into the big league of federal government hasn’t changed his routine. At the meeting today he spoke about continuing the local Town Meetings to keep in touch, emphasizing his desire for accessibility and to return to inform his district of how “bills are moving along”.

Brenda Criss started the round of questioning with an inquiry about homeland security. The recent revelation that the terrorists who bombed the Madrid railway station three days before the Spanish election had detailed drawings of Grand Central Station in New York City was a concern to Brenda as she said, “Is for all Americans.” Brenda wanted to know the state of homeland security and how the recent budget cuts for emergency responders would affect national security.

Randy responded by affirming the newly created National Intelligence Director, (just appointed John Negroponte who will be sworn in by the Senate), along with congressional oversight and the restructuring of the CIA and FBI would add layers of homeland security protection. Randy also mentioned that he had just spoken with an FBI agent from this area about the state of our security locally. The agent, according to Randy, said that our area was safe, that the FBI had not uncovered any active terrorist cells since the Lackawanna Eight and the investigation in Wellsville.

The second question was posed by Fran Woodring who suggested the Bush Administration’s plan to privatize the Social Security Program was maybe too risky. Fran believed the system as it exists now works, but agreed that it may need to be tweaked in order to sustain solvency for future retirees.

Randy did a great job of describing the history and long range condition of the Social Security Program and why the system is in need of change. When SS was created in 1935 the politicians knew it wouldn’t last forever, that eventually the system would be revisited to keep it solvent. Initially retirees started withdrawing SS when they turned 65, but the life expectancy back then was only 62, so many people did not live long enough to burden the system. Now, the average life expectancy is 77 causing retirees to withdraw benefits longer adding pressure to the system. At the start of SS, 42 workers paid into the system for “one” person withdrawing retirement benefits. Because of population shifts, the amount of workers paying in versus the number of retirees withdrawing is rapidly declining. By 2042 the trust fund (SS) is exhausted.

Randy emphasized there is no firm plan at this time. The Bush Administration is floating a concept of privatization of SS, but other solutions to the problem will be considered. However, Randy reiterated the Bush Administration held to a three point objective when considering the restructuring of SS: It did not want to cut benefits, raise taxes or affect those over 55.

David Quackenbush presented Randy with an overview of what he expected from the newly elected Congressman. David noted that Amo Houghton, Randy’s predecessor, was the type of politician who didn’t back away from unpopular issues. David asked Randy if he was prepared to do the same. He also reminded Randy that he believed there was an ever growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Dick Pierce suggested if it was decided to privatize a small percentage of SS, monies invested should be government bonds. He said, “The earnings would not be that great, but the security would be there.” Dick also had concerns that certain SS solutions could be just another income tax.

Dee Hill asked if Route 15 was ever going to be completed. Randy said, “Yes, in your lifetime.” (Click on the headline to read The Leader article regarding the status of Route 15 here in Lindley.)

Dennis Smith asked if it were possible to label our beef so, “I know what country it comes from.” Dennis’ question surrounded the issue of beef cattle being imported from Canada where a few cases of “mad cow” disease have been found. “I want to know where the beef comes from before I eat it.”

Randy said there was currently a court order delaying the importation of Canadian beef. A panel of experts, according to Randy, determined through scientific study that mad cow disease does not present a problem in cattle “Not older than 30 months.” Dennis said, “Then I’d like the label to read country of origin along with a birth certificate.”

Note from Sallyann: If anyone attending today's Town Meeting with Randy Kuhl would like to add to this report, feel free. Use the comment link below to add your comments. Thank you.


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