A TALE OF TWO MEETINGS – ALLEGANY COUNTY STYLE

I attended two very different meetings this past week. On Monday (February 13th) I attended the Allegany County Legislature session in Belmont. On Saturday (February 18th) I attended a Town Hall meeting with Congressman Tom Reed at the Town of Allen Town Hall. These meetings could hardly have been more different. I think we can learn from what happened at each meeting.

Monday’s Legislative Session began with the Pledge of Allegiance. Former Army Specialist Fourth Class Joseph G. Flynn was present and led us in the Pledge. From 1959 to1962 he served as a cryptographer with a Top Secret Crypto Security clearance. He later served as Professor of English and Humanities at Alfred State College. He also served as President of the Faculty Senate for the SUNY System. In 1986 the SUNY Board of Trustees promoted him to the rank of SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English and Humanities. He remains active in numerous organizations. During Privilege of the Floor Chairman Crandall honored Betty “Geanie” While who has served as a cleaner in the County Office Building. Youth Bureau Director Linda Edwards introduced the students who had participated in this year’s NYS Youth Leadership Forum.

A highlight of this meeting was an oratorical presentation by Rachael Burns. She was first runner up at the Western NY American Legion Oratorical Contest. She spoke on the importance of the US Constitution. Her delivery (without notes) was excellent, but her thoughts and content of her speech were outstanding. Rachael has a bright future, and she gives me hope for our nation’s future. Well done, Rachael.

The Board considered five resolutions. Resolution 29-17 created the position of Deputy County Clerk IV and established the pay grade for that position. Resolution 30-17 called on the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Governor to provide funding for services for those incarcerated in local jails. More than 65% of those incarcerated suffer from some level of alcohol and/or substance abuse. Resolution 31-17 approved the Annual Agreement with Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Allegany County at a cost of $277,694. Resolution 32-17 that would have approved an agreement with the Allegany County Association For the Blind and Visually Disabled was tabled for further information. Finally, Resolution 33-17 approved a Grant Application by the Health Department for the Kresge Foundation Emerging Health Leader’s Grant for $125,000.

This meeting was orderly, calm, routine and courteous. It was also lightly attended. A lot of business got done. There was some debate and a moderate level of disagreement. Probably because of the lack of drama, there has been relatively little media coverage of it. Saturday afternoon’s Town Hall meeting in the Town of Allen was very different. That meeting took place outside in the muddy Town Hall parking lot, in bright sunlight. The Press has reported that more than 500 people attended that meeting. The media reports I have been able to find indicate that most of those present were protesters. My personal estimate is that more than 50%

were Reed and Trump supporters. (Most of the protesters were strangers to me. Most of the Reed-Trump supporters were familiar local residents.) One news report noted that there were two men with Trump signs standing at the side of the Allen gathering. That is inaccurate. I personally saw more than 20 Trump, Reed and Anti-Obama signs. There was a lot of shouting by both protesters and supporters, but most of those present behaved with dignity and respect for others. I personally had a number of interesting and courteous conversations with protesters. Tom Reed demonstrated great patience and respect for all of those present, including the protesters. Judging by the prepared materials, signs and chants, the protesters were clearly organized and “trained.” This was not a spontaneous protest.

I am very troubled by the media coverage of the Town of Allen event. The only TV coverage I saw left shortly after a loud shouting exchange over whether “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter.” It seemed like the cameraman was only interested in getting a sound-bite. Follow-up Internet and TV coverage has focused almost exclusively on the protesters. Congressman Reed’s supporters have been largely ignored. Based upon the media coverage I would conclude that almost everyone there was anti-Trump and anti-Reed. My personal observation is that several hundred Republicans took time from their weekend to show up to support Congressman Reed and President Trump. The media has largely ignored that. Finally, it is obvious that our country is deeply divided, and I think the Democrats have finally woken up to the fact that they lost the 2016 election. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

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