The Assembly speaker was in the North Country as part of his annual tour of the state. Assemblywoman Jenne said Speaker Heastie had an opportunity to discuss local issues with officials in Sackets Harbor and Chaumont before making a stop at the Jefferson County Fair in Watertown, which prides itself as being the longest, continuously running county fair in the country. The fair is celebrating its 201st anniversary this week.
Speaker Heastie said the annual summer tours helps him learn more about the local issues facing specific regions of the state and also provides him with insight when individual lawmakers come to him with specific concerns.
"This is one of the reasons I'm up here. I know that there's always this misnomer that somehow a speaker from the city doesn't care about upstate New York," he said.
"But that's why I continue to come up here on these tours to learn so when Assemblywoman Jenne or some of her colleagues that represent upstate New York bring a concern to me, we can try to find a solution," Speaker Heastie said.
He acknowledged there are some pieces of legislation and steps to improve the economy that might work in one area of the state and be detrimental in another.
"I think we have to look at regional factors, use our educational institutions to meet a region's needs. A lot of [the upstate economy] used to be manufacturing, and the country has kind of changed its way on manufacturing," he noted.
"One size doesn't necessarily fit all. I think we have to look at each region's best assets and match the economy up with that," Speaker Heastie said.
Assemblywoman Jenne said the tour provided an opportunity for Speaker Heastie to see steps that have been taken to recover from last year's flooding and to see the river and lake communities in the River District operating in more traditional conditions.
"I think he takes away from this visit just how tough we are in responding to a crisis, but also how when we're down and out -– like we were last year as a result of the flooding -– we need the state to come in and help us," she said.
She noted the state Legislature, working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allocated $90 million to help property owners and municipalities recover from damages they suffered during flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River during the spring and summer of 2017.
"That's what the state did. They understood how devastating the flooding was, which is why we've created the flood recovery program. It'sworking on government time, but it is working. People know there is a program out there to help them rebuild with their recovery efforts," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She noted while Speaker Heastie saw the impact of high water levels during visits to Boldt Castle and the Antique Boat Museum last summer he and had an opportunity this week to see the region through a different lens. The speaker spend Monday night in Clayton before visiting Sackets Harbor, Chaumont and the Jefferson County Fair on Tuesday.
"This year really is different. The beaches are open when they should be, and our boat launches are available," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
"We were able to look past the damage today and see the absolute beauty of our area, unfettered from the problems of last year's flooding," she noted.
The assemblywoman said the visit also provided the speaker with an opportunity to see how communities like Chaumont, one of the region's hit hardest by last year's flooding, are rebuilding their infrastructure so they are better prepared for high water levels in the future.
"What's important is we build back better. I've actually been holding community discussions, and we've been talking about how we can learn from what happened last year and how we can better position ourselves to weather high water level events in the future," she said.
During a stop in the town of Lyme Supervisor Scott Aubertine and other town officials talked about the impact of last year's flooding on their community, efforts to improve access to the waterfront in the heart of the village of Chamount and the town's history and bicentennial celebration later this month.
She said a visit to the Sackets Harbor Battlefield was a reminder of the region's rich history and deep ties to the military.
Mayor Molly Reilly and other community leaders talked about some of the maritime- and tourism-related enhancements taking place on the shores of Lake Ontario in Jefferson County.
She said the speaker also pledged to work with Sackets Harbor Central School officials after Superintendent Jennifer L. Gaffney shared the challenges of getting funding necessary to launch a pre-K program.
"The speaker is a strong believer in that program," Assemblywoman Jenne stressed.
She noted the speaker even had a chance to enjoy some locally produced food products at Tin Pan Galley in Sackets Harbor before taking a stroll through the Jefferson County Fair, including a stop in the dairy barn.
Assemblywoman Jenne emphasized the need for the state to take bold action to assist dairy farmers struggling with historically low milk prices hovering near levels they received two decades ago and lag far behind the cost of their taxes, equipment, feed and fertilizer.
"Our dairy farmers continue to struggle. Even though dairy pricing is a much bigger issue than just New York State, I still think we can take important steps to help improve the plight of our dairy farmers. It is something we must do," the assemblywoman said.
"As we celebrate our agricultural heritage this week at the Jefferson County Fair, we need to make sure that is something we do all summer long to help support our local dairy farmers," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She noted she was grateful for Speaker Heastie's willingness to travel the state and gain a first-hand understanding of the issues facing the North Country.
"He listens and cares about what is going on here. He also knows how involved I am in the communities I represent. That's very important when I'm advocating for issues of great importance to the North Country, such as protecting Fort Drum from the potential impact of proposed wind turbine projects.
Speaker Heastie said he feels local lawmakers know their areas better than he does so he listens to their perspective on issues like Assemblywoman Jenne's legislation, which would institute a short-term ban on state subsidies for wind projects that could impact the safety of aircraft flying in and out of Fort Drum.
"I tend to kind of follow the lead of local legislators. I feel local legislators know their areas best, and I defer to them," he noted.
IN THE PHOTOS:
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his daughter, Taylor, joined Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne and her children, Aaron and Cora, during a visit Tuesday to the Jefferson County Fair.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (center) learns about the history of Sackets Harbor Battlefield during a visit to the historical site. Pictured are, clockwise (l-r): Speaker Heastie, Sackets Harbor Mayor Molly Reilly, Captain Sean Marquis, Sackets Harbor School Superintendent Jennifer Gaffney and Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne.
Lyme officials shared stories about the town's flood recovery effort during a meeting with Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Tuesday morning during a visit at the Chaumont Village Beach. Pictured are Town Supervisor Scott Aubertine, Town Councilman Dan Villa, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, Town Councilwoman Julia Gosier, Executive Assistant Robin Grovesteen and Town Councilman Don Bourquin.