October 24, 2008

Hinchey Vies for Support From C.U.

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Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) lunched with University faculty and staff yesterday in the Industrial and Labor Relations Conference Center, discussing the upcoming November election and how the University has benefited from his eight terms as congressman for the 22nd District, which includes the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions of New York.
Hinchey came as part of a series of candidate luncheons, where local political candidates whose influence relates to the University visit the campus. [img_assist|nid=32962|title=Press time|desc=Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), spoke to the Cornell community at a luncheon yesterday afternoon.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“This is just a good opportunity for interchange,” said Stephen Philip Johnson, vice president of government and community relations, and a longtime friend of Hinchey’s.
Jacqueline Powers, director of federal relations in the office of government and community relations, said the luncheons make it easy and convenient for the candidates to speak with members of the community.
“We want to be able to keep it a conversation to go both ways … so it becomes a dialogue.”
Hinchey is being challenged for the first time since the 2004 election by Republican George Phillips, a history teacher at Catholic Central High School in Binghamton.
Hinchey began the luncheon with a brief talk on his central policy outlines and campaign focuses. Among the issues addressed was the need for research about alternative energy sources and the recent economic fallout, which Hinchey indicated was a long time coming.
“We have seen the most reckless investment and speculation in the history of this country,” Hinchey said. He went on to cite the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which regulated commercial and investment bank activities, as a major factor in the current financial crisis. Hinchey — one of 288 congressmen to vote against the $700 billion bailout bill in September — noted that Congress was looking to pass a bi-partisan relief bill in November. Hinchey.
Phillips, who participated in a candidate luncheon on Oct. 2, has recently attacked Hinchey on his support for a new bailout plan.
“No matter how much we spend on it, it isn’t going to solve the underlying problems,” Phillips stated in a press release. “The economy isn’t going to improve until we repair the financial system and bring spending under control to stop passing the burden of Washington’s recklessness onto American taxpayers.”
After the initial speech, the floor was opened to questions from fellow diners, many of whom Powers described as “leaders” in the university community. Numerous faculty addressed problems relevant to their field.
“I’m interested in some things about renewable energy and climate changes,” said Michael P. Hoffmann, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Hoffman noted that Hinchey’s support for alternative energy resources was encouraging.
On the minds of several attendees was concern over the economy of upstate New York, especially in the big picture of the fragile national fiscal situation.
“I’m most interested on how he plans to make the economy of New York better,” said Jenifer Lindblad, community relations assistant in the office of government and community relations. Lindblad also noted the value in having candidates personally address the concerns of University faculty.
“It gives us a better perspective on what their ideals are. We also get to hear about what they’ve already done,” said Lindblad.
Hinchey has been instrumental in bringing federal funding to Cornell. For the fiscal year 2008, he helped secure $8 million for the construction for the Grape Genetics Research facility at the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva, which is associated with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Additionally, he has helped secure over $10 million for Cornell’s Center for Health-Based Plant Genomics.
“I think he’s a very good speaker, and a very personable person,” said Penny Givin, assistant to the director of federal relations. Givin noted the luncheon’s value as a medium for communication between a candidate and their constituents.
“I think it’s very helpful for faculty, staff and students to hear their views, and to hear what the candidate’s plans are for the future,” Givin said. “We try to gear [the luncheons] so people on campus are free to come.”
For Hinchey, whose daughter Michelle Hinchey ’09 is a student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the University is a hallmark of his district and one he hopes to continue to serve.
“I think it’s important to have a relationship with this University. This is one of the most highly respected universities in the world,” Hinchey said. “This is something for which New York state generally can be very proud … I enjoy coming here.”