By Nicholas Cafalone, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – Congressman Bill Owens held a town hall style meeting at the Auditorium in the Campus Center on the SUNY Oswego Campus Tuesday night.
The meeting was open to anyone and more than 50 people were in attendance. Anyone that wanted to was given the opportunity to ask Congressman Owens a question.
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley opened up the town hall meeting by giving a brief history on Owens and then yielded the floor to the congressman.
Owens started off by saying we need to work together to overcome the number of significant issues that are facing Americans and that he was most upset with the lack of discussion and factual information in Washington.
“It is very difficult to have a conversation that is fact based as opposed to opinion based,” said Owens. “If we are going to solve the many issues that we face, we need to be able to sit down and understand or at least have a common understanding of the facts. You can then apply whatever your ideology might be to those facts, but you must start from a fact based discussion.”
Questions asked by the audience covered a broad area of topics. They ranged from local issues in Owens’ 23rd congressional district to federal issues.
Job creation was one the central issues raised throughout the night. There were also questions asked about farm subsidies and the price of corn, troop withdrawals, the use of the strategic petroleum reserves, healthcare reform, and alternative energy.
Owens believes that the most important issue facing congress is the passing of a transportation bill. He believes that if it were to pass that it would create a large number of jobs.
“The most important piece of legislation that I think we need to be working on in congress is the passage of the transportation bill. That would put people to work building roads, building bridges, rebuilding railroad infrastructure. That’s actually going to get people back to work. That is where I think our focus should be,” said Owens.
One of the first questions asked was by a local farmer. He wanted to know Owens’ opinions on the increasing cost of corn due to ethanol production and agricultural subsidies.
Owens’ believed in the 2012 fiscal year budget that ethanol subsidies will either be eliminated or severely trimmed.
“Most people believe that this is now a mature industry and it should be able to make it on its own and I certainly support that position,” said Owens.
He also stated that there will likely be a gradual decline, not a complete elimination, of agricultural subsidies.
The next question raised was about the recent order for troop withdrawals out of Afghanistan by President Obama. The man asking the question was upset with letting the enemy know about the withdrawal.
Owens’ said he supported the president’s position and agreed with the man that we need to make sure that the soldiers left behind are being adequately protected.
He then stated his belief opinion on the course of the war in Afghanistan.
“I also think that at some point in the very near future, we need to turn over control of Afghanistan to the Afghanis,” said Owens. “There has to be a plan to leave Afghanistan.”
Owens stated his support of President Obama’s decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
He also believes that America is too dependent on foreign oil and there needs to be a number of different approaches taken to solve the problem, including increased production at home.
The congressman represents New York’s 23rd Congressional District and serves on the agriculture, armed services and small business committees in congress.