Grievances, Support Aired at Joint Public Meeting of Hayworth and Castelli
Indian Point status was most frequent topic in meeting held at Fox Lane Middle School.
An audience full of people eager to get their views across greeted Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-Bedford) and state Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge) at a public event in Fox Lane Middle School on Saturday.
While folks attending were on multiple sides of the spectrum, Hayworth in particular faced critical reviews from people to her ideological left on federal issues, with the status of the Indian Point nuclear plant being the most frequent.
Sunny Armer, a Croton-on-Hudson resident and member of the Raging Grannies, came with a sign and hymn offering her displeasure of Hayworth’s support for keeping the plant open and of comments she made in a media interview regarding the difficulty of evacuating people in the tri-state area.
Hayworth acknowledged the comments were true but also noted that evacuation in the area is difficult in any type of emergency. Also, unlike the ongoing danger of heightened activity of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in the aftermath of that country’s earthquake and tsunami, Hayworth explained that either event was unlike to happen in this area due the geological differences. She also said that power from Indian Point is needed, and that it is a cleaner source of energy in terms of carbon emissions.
Castelli joined in the conversation, explaining that while putting a nuclear plant at that site was a bad idea, he talked about having to deal with it now.
“So we’re stuck with this problem, ladies and gentlemen,” he said.
Both elected officials stated that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should do its work to review Indian Point, an agency that Armer said is “the lapdog of the nuclear industry.”
Kevin Winterfield, a Garrison resident and member of a Facebook group called the NY19 U.S. House of Representatives Civil Discussion Center, was also skeptical about Indian Point, calling it “a big turd sitting there.”
“Risk is undertaken in any endeavor,” Hayworth responded to his question, in relation to other energy sources. She also noted to Winterfield that his driving a car to the meeting was a risk.
One person who spoke called for the repeal of Price-Anderson, which provides some legal indemnification for nuclear power companies in the event of accidents.
Other Big Federal Issues: Federal Spending and Healthcare
Federal spending was a big point that Hayworth noted in her meeting, starting off by showing a series of charts with public debt figures. She was particularly concerned about the long-term state of major federal programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
We are facing, Hayworth explained, “an enormous challenge of arithmetic and demographics.”
A Pound Ridge resident whose daughter works on Hayworth’s staff wanted to know what action could be taken regarding the entitlement programs. She responded that future recipients “will probably see some changes,” while emphasizing that doing so would be done on a relatively longer-term time table, compared to the current fiscal debate over continuing resolutions, which are stopgap measures need to keep the federal government running in absence of a budget, which was not passed for the 2011 fiscal year.
In response to another question Winterfield asked regarding action to help create jobs, Hayworth argued that cutting spending would help in the process, and argued that taxes that excessive regulations are hindrances to growth.
With regard to government spending for certain areas, one issue that Hayworth was asked about with concern came from Mount Kisco resident Phyllis Padow-Sederbaum, who was opposed to Hayworth’s support for cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. The congresswoman responded that, “This is a matter of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.” On the issue of abortion she stated that she is opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade, but argued that many taxpayers do not want to money used for elective abortions. House Republicans, according to media reports when the vote was taken in February, were on record as supporting the move because they argued that it would prevent taxpayer funds from supporting abortion procedures.
Bob Korren, a Bedford resident and small business owner who said he is facing rising health insurance costs, voiced his displeasure with how both parties have been handling healthcare as an issue.
Things got a bit tense after Hayworth responded in voicing her displeasure with the current healthcare law on the books that had the backing of President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, saying that will could allow for the federal government to become “the payer of default,” and leading to a single-payer healthcare system.
“I’m sorry, Congresswoman, that is not true!” shouted Maria Schafer, a Somers resident.
After some brief back-and-forth yelling between people on both sides, things died down and the format resumed as before, and while a majority of people who asked questions had various disagreements with Hayworth, there were supporters in the audience who gave her applause at times.
As the healthcare conversation resumed, Hayworth stated that she wants to see policy changes such as buying health insurance plans across state lines, more emphasis of Health Savings Accounts and changing the medical liability structure.
State Issues, and What Federal Involvement Should There Be?
The meeting also had room for issues of local and state impact, with people asking questions that local officials talk about frequently.
Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), the Majority Leader for the Westchester County Board of Legislators, told Hayworth that the federal government should help with funding mandates like the MS4 stormwater management requirement for local governments. He said there is a need “to get the federal government back into the water infrastructure business.” He also stated that federal funding for water infrastructure was once higher than it is now.
Jim McCauley, a Chappaqua resident a member of the local taxpayers’ watchdog group New Castle Citizens for Responsible Education, asked Castelli about efforts in Albany to change teacher tenure and to repeal the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law, which maintains certain increases in pay after public employee collective bargaining agreements expire. Both of these issues are of concern to members of his group.
Castelli said that he introduced legislation last year to repeal Triborough but that it got killed in committee. He hopes that it can at least be suspended, and said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration might be open to doing that.
Regarding changing the tenure system, Castelli, who has also been a college professor, said, “If I do my job well I won’t lose it,” calling for there to be a longer period of time to get tenure, as well as changing the seniority system that gives preference to retaining teachers who have worked in the district longer, in the event of job reductions.
Korren, in posing another question voicing concern about the state of roads in the area, asked if a program could be implemented to fix them while putting unemployed people to work.
Castelli did not see how doing it would be practical at the state level, and said that he wasn’t sure if doing so could be easily instituted at the federal level
Hayworth, in talking about infrastructure, felt that the federal role should be in areas such as interstate projects, and said that local and state roads should be the responsibility of local and state governments. She also felt that unnecessary federal involvement could ultimately have a negative impact on the cost of a local project even if there is an intent to do so in order to provide relief to area taxpayers in paying for the cost.