Hochul: I'm here to help

January 16th, 2012

By Joyce Miles Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

When a philosophical disagreement between residents interrupted her spiel at a recent Congress On Your Corner event, U.S. Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul didn’t lose her place, she seized the moment.

Hochul, D-Amherst, had just made reference to a jobs bill, proposed by President Obama and opposed by Republicans in Congress, that she thought would bring badly needed infrastructure dollars to Niagara County, and thereby make it more attractive to employers.

A woman in the audience, who identified herself as long-term unemployed, questioned Hochul’s faith in government spending making things better. That’s taxpayers’ money, she said, and they, not the government, know better how to spend it.

Before Hochul could respond, a man seated a few rows ahead in North Tonawanda Common Council chambers turned to the woman and said emphatically, “We are the government.”

Conservative or liberal? Republican or Democratic? Which side is right? Briefly, it seemed like a debate was breaking out that had nothing to do with Hochul or the 26th District.

Subtly, Hochul stepped away from the podium, moved in closer to her seated audience and addressed the unemployed woman.

“We won’t always agree, and that’s OK,” she said. “Just know that I’m working for you.”

Hochul ties her House work record back to the people and places of the 26th District almost reflexively.

She’s co-written legislation to let the dairy industry participate in the H2A visa program because “her” dairy farmers need it to survive.

She penned a letter to the CEO of General Motors last month proposing that, since the company is doing so well after its U.S. bailout, the time has come for it to “revisit” its dumping of some Delphi retirees’ pension benefits — because that action hurt people all over Western New York.

Currently, she’s angling for a dinner date with the CEO of Pyrotek, so she can bend his ear about expanding the company in Sanborn rather than South Carolina.

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement of a $1 billion state incentive package aimed at attracting businesses to the Buffalo region — yes, region, Hochul has been told by a Cuomo staffer — she’s asking constituents to let her be a “cheerleader” for the 26th District.

“Anyone who’s looking to recruit a business, let me help! I’ll have a cup of coffee and tell ‘em all about how great this area is,” she said. “Let me help; that’s my job.”

In the seven months since she took office, Hochul reports, her staff has “brought back” more than $550,000 to district residents, by helping veterans, senior citizens and others get delayed or denied benefit claims settled in their favor. On-the-spot casework is done at both her Congress On Your Corner meetings and district “satellite” offices, which she plans on increasing to 12 from the current six.

“I’m all about making government more accessible,” Hochul said. “The stuff we do in Washington is important ... but the real action still lies right here in the district.”

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