February 4, 2011
Congressman rolls out the welcome mat
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Newly elected Rep. Richard Hanna, center, greets Cortland County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers, left, and Cortland County Legislator Dave Fuller, right, Thursday during an open house at Hanna’s new Cortland office at 18 Tompkins St.
Congressman Richard Hanna chatted amiably with residents and local officials on both sides of the political aisle Thursday afternoon at an open house for his new office on Tompkins Street in Cortland.
In November, Hanna (R-Barneveld) defeated his Democratic opponent, two-term congressman Michael Arcuri, for the 24th Congressional District seat.
The event kicked off the official opening of the Cortland office at 18 Tompkins St. Hanna also had opened offices in Utica, Auburn, Norwich and Oneonta. A continuous stream of local town, county and village officials and residents flowed through the office throughout the hour.
The event provided a chance for people like Seth Dennis, a Homer resident and a member of the Tompkins County Soil and Water District, to meet their congressman, ask him questions and air their concerns about issues facing the area.
Dennis was looking forward to an upcoming meeting between other soil and water conservation districts and Hanna, saying representatives from each agency would tell the new congressman what programs they provide for the county.
Hanna said concerns about the economy and job creation pervaded his brief encounters with the huge gathering.
“It’s all about saving money and how hard can you cut. People need to give plausible reasons why their program is more important than others,” Hanna said during a break between greeting people.
Preble Town Supervisor Jim Doring said he was pleased by Hanna’s response to a question he asked about whether he would vote in favor of auditing the federal reserve.
Doring said Hanna assured him he would vote in favor of the audit and transparency.
Mary Beilby, a member of the local group Gas Drilling Awareness of Cortland County, said Hanna was informed on the controversial topic of extracting gas through hydraulic fracturing.
“He seems to be aware of the dangers but thinks it might be good for the economy,” Beilby said.
Hanna said he and members of the group, whom he met with before the open house, did not agree completely on the issue of injecting chemically treated water underground to extract gas, but he does think the method has not been proven to be completely safe.
“I think the goal should be to find scientifically proven reasons that make it safe because it is an asset of ours right here and farmers are hurting and they deserve to get it out of the ground,” Hanna said.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) came Thursday to meet Hanna and impress upon him the importance of securing federal funds to rehabilitate Truxton Tully Road.
The road provides a detour to Cortland from Tully in the event Interstate 81 is shut down, said fellow legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville).
Hanna sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Arnold said he should know the road needs repair. It is in “very poor condition,” she said.
Hanna informed her the transportation committee will be bringing out a bill in August that could designate federal funds for the project.
Hanna also sits on the Education and Workforce Committee.
He said he is still learning what opportunities are open to him and understanding the political process.
Hanna described the atmosphere in Washington as “venomous” with a lot of infighting.
“Hopefully people will realize now more than any other time we need to work together,” Hanna said.
Hanna said he plans to “read, study, learn and listen and try to understand the issues.”
The Cortland office will be open full time, Hanna said, providing a place for people to interact with the federal government.
Hanna said it was nice to see the large turnout Thursday.
“There are a lot of well-wishers. People are excited to have a presence in Cortland and someone who knows business, social security, Medicare and Medicaid,” he said, referring to his past business experience.
Hanna, 59, built Hanna Construction into a company with 450 employees and put himself through college, receiving a degree in economics from Reed College in Oregon when he was 25.
Hanna expects to be in the Cortland office every three weeks. The phone number for the office will be the same as Arcuri’s office: 607-756-2470.
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