Representative Tom Reed continued his practice of visiting his constituents in "Town Hall meetings" on Saturday in Penn Yan, one of several being made that day. A diverse audience of about 45 attended in the chamber of the Penn Yan Village Board.
He began his opening comments by addressing the much feared "fiscal cliff" the U.S. faces. Reed criticized the White House plan as all about revenue rather than spending. He dismissed the idea of raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Americans, and asked the audience how many of them believed that would solve the fiscal problem. Few hands were raised, but one citizen spoke out, "It would be part of the solution," to which many agreed.
Another spoke of his frustration with the childishness of Congress, refusing to set aside differences or compromise on anything. "I'd spank every G— d—-ed one of them." Reed agreed that the atmosphere there has been bad, but that things may be changing on both sides of the aisle.
Medicare was raised as one of the entitlement programs Reed believes must be reformed, launching again into criticism of the White House. When asked, several in the audience expressed support for a single payer system for all Americans. Reed opposes it, preferring control by market forces rather than government.
One person raised the point that insurance companies who stand to make a profit were making the decisions, not patients and doctors.
The question of why America was always at war and the expense involved was posed. Reed stood by a commitment to national security and Pentagon spending, but said nation building should not be the mission of the military.
When the shooting in Newtown was raised, Reed said, "I do believe in the Second Amendment and that it is an individual fundamental right, so if we go down this path we have to be aware that you're infringing upon freedom. It could be this freedom this time in the constitution, what's the next freedom?" He warned that the nation is emotional about what happened in Newtown, and it would be a mistake to start talking about gun control at such an emotional time.
Reed said that of course, as a parent, he is upset by what happened, but we need to understand what made this individual act as he did. "It's not about the gun, but about the person behind the gun," he said.
Fracking was raised by a question asking about contributions to Reed's campaigns from the oil and gas industry and how much opponents of fracking would have to pay to get him to vote in their favor instead. Reed readily acknowledged the contributions, but insists he had reached his conclusions on fracking entirely independent of them. He says he asked the head of the EPA about evidence that fracking fluids can damage the aquifer, and she could not provide him with a single instance. This elicited groans from several in the audience. Reed did admit that methane can leak from well shafts into drinking water wells, but that was because of faulty shaft lining, which was something that would have to be regulated.
Page 2 of 2 - He believes regulation should be left up to the states. In response to a question from the floor, he indicated that he was not concerned about the "Frack Act," which exempts the gas industry from the terms of the Clean Water Act, because it was the states that should be doing the regulating.
Reed said he opposes a ban on fracking in New York State, but is in favor of an exception for the Finger Lakes because studies show there would be increased truck traffic, damaging the tourism industry. He says he has a house on Keuka Lake, and knows just how important tourism is.