Thursday, May 10, 2018

Assemblywoman Jenne keeps fighting for the North Country, bringing home results

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne pledged to continue working to assist River District communities move forward in efforts to revitalize the region's economy at a recent kickoff event for her campaign.

She said she will also continue to bring the perspective of a seventh-generation resident of the North Country to policy discussions on issues ranging from agriculture to Fort Drum.

"I really want to ensure the North Country continues to be a place where people feel they can stay, make their home here and raise their families," she said.

Assemblywoman Jenne said she also works with community leaders and businesses in efforts to grow the region's economy and create more living wage jobs.

"I want to continue to make the North Country a beautiful place. I want to be that elected official they see as someone who fights for what they need, cares about their concerns and gets results for them," she said.

Assemblywoman Jenne, who secured $125,000 in funding for the community room addition to the Crosby Public Library where she hosted the event, said she has worked hard to secure funding for projects, large and small, from one end of the district to the other.

"The River District is full of communities like Antwerp that are looking for places to come together, have camaraderie and share an evening," the assemblywoman pointed out.

She also helped secure funding that led to the completion of the renovation of the third floor at Pickens Hall and is working with Waddington officials to secure funding for renovations at the Clark House.

She noted the $1 million allocation for the city of Watertown she fought for to be included in last year's state budget is providing programs aimed at moving people out of poverty.

Assemblywoman Jenne pointed to the $900,000 she has secured for the farm-to-school program in the North Country over the past three years that has opened new markets for local farmers and brought healthy foods to school cafeterias. She noted this year's state budget also provides additional funding to grow the farm-to-school program statewide, a $10 million program.

The assemblywoman said she fights to make sure the North Country's schools and colleges get the funding they need to provide quality educational programs to their students.

She said one of her most important missions since first being elected to the state legislature has been fighting to make sure North Country schools get equitable funding from the state.

"We're a poor area. It's important I fight for funding in Albany to ensure that our schools can offer the types of programs our kids need to be able to compete, not just here, but all over the country and in the world," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

"That has been a hallmark of what I have done for the last five terms, fighting for equity in funding. I also work hand-in-hand with our school districts here in the North Country to find out when they need a little bit of extra help with and to fight to provide that extra funding for them to ensure kids have a well rounded education and not just a bare minimum," she stressed.

Assemblywoman Jenne secured an additional $300,000 in funding for the Ogdensburg City School District and $100,000 for the Watertown City School District in 2016-17 alone.

She also secured additional funding for the Alexandria, Lyme, Canton, Hammond, Heuvelton, Massena, Morristown and Norwood-Norfolk central school districts last year.

'Those extra opportunities to learn and have experiences really make a difference in a kid's ability to go and feel that they are just as prepared as peers who come from very wealthy areas of the state," she added, noting as a North Country high school graduate she personally benefitted receiving a high quality education.

Assemblywoman Jenne said her advocacy for the North Country in Albany isn't limited to the education sector.

"I'm working to make sure we pass policies and bring other types of funding to the north country to try and address things everybody needs - stronger health care, infrastructure improvements to maintain and improve our roads and bridges, proper funding for our towns and villages and support for their initiatives," she noted.

She pointed out she is continuing to advocate for policies to help local farmers, protect Fort Drum and grow the region's economy.

The assemblywoman said she has been raising concerns about the plight of dairy farmers for the past couple of years but was repeatedly assured it was part of a normal cycle.

But she said that cycle of low milk prices has now lasted four years, and many dairy farmers in the state are being forced to consider going out of business.

"I'm out there fighting for our dairy farmers. Our dairy farmers are going out of business, and those families are losing up to three generations of equity in their business and land," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

"You talk about the devastation of the economy in the North Country. Losing our dairy industry is going to be like when we lost our paper industry. Just families devastated," she added.

She said the state needs to take action now to protect the dairy industry.

She said she has developed a milk premium proposal that would allocate state funding to farmers during times of low milk prices to sustain a major sector of the state's economy. She pointed out the federal government also needs to make significant changes in its milk pricing structure and regulations.

Assemblywoman Jenne said she has spent considerable time over the past year looking at the region's maritime and tourism industries.

"We were devastated by flooding last year up and down the river and lake. A lot of businesses suffered tremendously," she said.

The assemblywoman noted she worked in the Thousand Islands to put herself through college.

"I understand what it's like when nobody shows up to get pizza, when the boaters don't come to get gas. I lived in that economy, and I knew my hours were going to be cut short and I wasn't going to have a big enough paycheck if there weren't people in Alex Bay," she said.

Assemblywoman Jenne said that background helped her as she joined her colleagues representing communities along the river and Lake Ontario to fight to get $95 million in state funds allocated to the flood recovery effort to assist municipalities businesses and individuals impacted by the high water levels.

She said she has also spent the past several months doing an assessment to understand steps that can be taken to better protect the region if there are future flooding events as well as to grow the maritime sector economy in the region.

"I think we have opportunities to invest in our communities and to build strong so we if we have flooding again we aren't as devastated," the assemblywoman said.

"But then we should also look at what we can do in terms of our workforce. Are there opportunities we are missing? If we are going to invest in new infrastructure, should we be looking to attract new types of businesses to our area? What will our children and young adults need for skills so they can be successful and continue to make a living and support their families off our wonderful natural resources we have including Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River?" she asked.

Assemblywoman Jenne said she has been seeking answers to those questions in private meetings and at public forums in the past few months to determine positive steps that can be taken to raise the region's profile and grow the local economy.

She said she takes pride in her work, makes a commitment to spend considerable time in the communities in her district, talks to community leaders and constituents on a regular basis, listens to their concerns and works in Albany to address those issues.

"It's hard work if your heart is in it. I work hard every day because my heart is definitely here in the North Country," she said.

"It's a pleasure for me to be able to actually sit down and understand what is going on in our communities. All too often elected officials fly into a community for an hour and then fly out. I do take the time. I like to spend time in our communities, really listen to what people are saying and hear them," according to the assemblywoman.

"That's possible because I make it a priority to be here rather than be somewhere else where I might be rubbing elbows with fancy people. I'd rather be here with my friends and neighbors helping them make their communities places they can be proud of," she stressed.

She noted another critical component of her work deals with addressing individual concerns of businesses and constituents in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties.

She noted two staff members are assigned to assist constituents in crisis, whether it be businesses seeking to obtain the licenses and permits necessary to open their doors or a veterans needing services in a time of crisis.

"I know for a fact those staff members have literally saved lives," Assemblywoman Jenne said, noting that assistance isn't simply limited to River District residents.

Assemblywoman Jenne said she is looking forward to talking about the work she has been doing for the North Country during her campaign for re-election.

"There is a lot to tend to in this district. Everybody is worth my time. Getting around, understanding what they need and then figuring out how I can help them be stronger," she noted.

"I want to continue to work hard. I want to continue to make this beautiful North Country a place where people feel they can call it home, where they see there is opportunity but more importantly where they see someone fights for what they need and what they care about and gets the results they deserve," Assemblywoman Jenne said.