GLENS FALLS - U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Greenport) addressed area residents' concerns over living the nightmare of a national recession, as she toured the area Dec. 3 to mingle with her constituents.
Gillibrand visited dozens of people gathered at the Ridge Street Coffee Co. in Glens Falls and Borders Bookstore in Saratoga as part of the Congress on Your Corner series.
Addressing a capacity crowd at the Coffee Co., Gillibrand fielded questions on a broad range of topics which included her vote against last month's $700 billion bailout bill and her vision of the future of the 20th Congressional District.
"It all starts with infrastructure," Gillibrand said to the audience about creating economic vitality for the area. "This district has so much potential for economic growth."
Gillibrand said the diversity of the district - which includes the suburbs of Albany, Saratoga and the southern Adirondacks - will allow the region to prosper in the future, but not without infrastructure development and modernization.
"We have everything from university hospitals to the Adirondacks," she said.
For Gillibrand, infrastructure is not only roads, bridges and the electrical grid, it is also wi-fi connectivity and high- resolution information technology, which she said is necessary for financial growth and future prosperity.
"I developed this definition of infrastructure after talking with several local supervisors," she said in a post-forum interview. "In many rural communities, broadband is not available - but without broadband, local business will lack the efficiency required to prosper and grow."
Gillibrand also said that she plans on lobbying Congress for funds to develop a regional light-commuter railway.
"In this district people have to drive to work," she said. "Light rail would greatly reduce the burden on middle-income families."
Gillibrand defended her "no" vote for last month's economic bailout, but said that the auto industry may require assistance.
"We need those businesses to survive," she said. "Does a $25 billion handout help this industry survive? I am not sure it does," she said. "We need to devise some kind of structured reorganization to create a viable long-term business model for the automobile manufacturers"
This 'reorganization' would be similar to Chapter 11, but she said that using the word 'bankruptcy' would doom the businesses.
"I am just not sure people will buy a vehicle from a corporation in bankruptcy," she said. "A car is most people's second largest investment and they want to be sure that the company they buy from will be there in six months."
Gillibrand said she supports economic and cultural growth in the Adirondack Park. With the nation rethinking its approach to development and its ecological impact, the human-environment interaction which is intrinsic to the Park's lifestyle could be culturally seminal and economically profitable, she said.
"Corn-based ethanol is not the answer," she said. "Switch-grass and wood-based versions are far more efficient - the citizens within the park can be at the cutting edge of the energy revolution that must happen in this country."
With progressive policy, focusing on energy concerns and adopting a 'green' lifestyle, Adirondack citizens could be at the forefront of a national movement, she said.
"The next step is to make it cost-effective for businesses to 'go green' and this is where the park could be at the forefront nationally," Gillibrand said. "I certainly would consider supporting hamlet expansion in the park, but I would have to take a town-by-town approach - not all communities want to expand."