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People pack Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle's first town hall meeting in Wayne County

Published: Thursday, February 03, 2011, 9:34 PM     Updated: Thursday, February 03, 2011, 11:16 PM
2011-02-03-mjg-Buerkle1.JPGView full sizeCongresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle answers a question from the audience during her first public town meeting, held in the Newark municipal building in Wayne County. More than 100 people attended.

Newark, NY -- It was wedding-like in the Wayne County office building Thursday night as people waited for U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle’s first town hall meeting. They hugged and slapped backs as they looked toward the door.

When Buerkle walked in, the receiving line began. She squeezed, cheek-kissed and shook as many hands as she could before getting down to business in the county that won her a tight race against former Rep. Dan Maffei, D-DeWitt. There were so many people — more than 100 — that Buerkle’s staffers had to put out extra chairs twice and crack a window to let in icy air.

“We’re losing the American dream, and we need to have the discussion about what we’re going to do to turn it around,” said Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill. She took about 20 questions that were written down before the meeting began. There were no time limits, and no one was interrupted.

State Assemblyman Bob Oaks, R-Lyons, picked the questions from a big cardboard box. But the people who wrote them got the microphone when it was time to ask Buerkle.

Dick Colacino asked the first question. He wasn’t shy. He asked Buerkle for a passenger train station in Newark. He represents the area on the Wayne County board of supervisors. “I’ve already found the ideal location,” Colacino said. Now all they need is help convincing Amtrak to put the station there.

“I’d be happy to look into that and set up a meeting,” Buerkle said.

Don Reeners, of Macedon, one of Buerkle’s former campaign workers, wanted to know if she was going to go on the Bob Lonsberry radio show every month. The room clapped. Buerkle said her staff was looking into it.

Buerkle, who voted to repeal the health care reform act, was twice asked about the health insurance she receives as a government employee. At first she said she couldn’t understand why people were so interested in her health insurance, and that taxpayers didn’t pay anything for it. She later corrected herself after being handed a note from a staffer. Like most employees, she pays for a portion of her insurance and her employer, the government, pays the rest, she said.

There were questions about immigration reform. Wayne County relies heavily on farming and the migrant work force. Buerkle said she wanted to make it easier for migrant workers to come and go, but that she was not for amnesty. The process has to be legal and orderly, or it’s unfair to the people who waited their turn.

Lenore Youngman, from Williamson, told Buerkle that she was glad to see her. “But I miss Dan Maffei,” Youngman said. Then she pressed Buerkle on whether she felt the government should restrict the size of ammunition private citizens can buy. She wondered if that might have prevented some of the deaths in the Arizona shootings.

Buerkle said she did not support any restrictions on gun rights, and that the shooter was mentally ill and would have gotten a gun one way or another. “It’s a fact that Americans have the right to bear arms,” she said.

Jim and Pam Johnson, of Ontario, wanted to know what Buerkle could do about the potential cuts to Medicaid. Their son is disabled; they rely on Medicaid and other programs to take care of him. Medicaid is mostly a state-run program, but Buerkle said she doesn’t support cutting services for people like the Johnsons’ son.

“There’s a legitimate role of government in some places,” she said.

When one woman asked about restoring the provision in the health care bill that allowed grown kids to stay on their parents’ insurance longer, the crowd chimed in before Buerkle could speak. “Grow up,” they whisper-hissed.

Buerkle said she would look into restoring that part of the bill. “There were some good pieces,” she said.

“I’m really glad you’re here, and not Dan Maffei,” said John Stephens, of Newark. Several people muttered that he wouldn’t be there.

When another man reminded her that she won by such a narrow margin, she said she was planning to be around often to listen. Buerkle’s staff said she plans to have another town hall meeting next month in Salina.

Contact Marnie Eisenstadt at meisenstadt@syracuse.com or 470-2246.


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dflott February 04, 2011 at 6:40AM

Were you alive when in 2008, Democrats won the White House, the House and a super majority in the Senate?

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HAWK February 04, 2011 at 8:53AM

HOW COME NOT ONE PERSON ASK HER ABOUT JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, THAT SHE RAN HER PLATFORM ON?

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Ice crunch February 04, 2011 at 10:16PM

exactly all these lemmings forget we need jobs!!! End the lovefest, get to work!

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noisedome February 03, 2011 at 9:49PM

Nicer slander piece PS.......if you're looking for Meffie, he is still at Assumption cemetery collecting votes.

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13207 February 04, 2011 at 6:43AM

How is the truth slander?
This woman didn't know she had gov. run and paid for health care? Sad.

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gaslight1 February 04, 2011 at 12:46PM

Ahh yes, the truth is only right when you agree with it.

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einars February 04, 2011 at 7:52PM

It's only the beginning, she's a one-issue ideological rightwingnut, tea party -- pinky fully extended, and not very bright. Perfect for the Republicant's.

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bleednorng44 February 03, 2011 at 9:51PM

Now if only Buerkle could learn the three branches of government...

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Le-Pick-un-Ooger February 03, 2011 at 10:09PM

That's good to hear. Between all of them I'm sure they mustered up about ten teeth and sixty I.Q. points.

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tonyb February 03, 2011 at 10:11PM

She didn't know that taxpayers pay for her insurance?

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cusecrane February 03, 2011 at 10:23PM

The health care fairy pays for her's.

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CNYSports13 February 03, 2011 at 10:30PM

Actually, they don't pay for all of it.

Congress has the same plans offered to them as any federal employee does. The only tax-payer funded part is the percentage that the federal government picks up, just as any large employer usually does for their employees.

Plans usually cost Congressmen anywhere from 150-500 plus dollars a month of their own money, depending on which of the 300 private insurance options they choose from.

Somehow this notion that Congress gets free lifetime total tax payer funded insurance has grown legs. However, it is an absolute myth.

And I am not a fan of most people in congress nor their ability to vote themeselves raises etc.., but people really need to stop repeating something as a talking point that simply isn't true.

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Le-Pick-un-Ooger February 03, 2011 at 10:47PM

Who pays their salary(other than the lobbyists.)?

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starrams February 04, 2011 at 10:06AM

Here is my problem with people like Ms. Buerkle who want to prevent "socialized" health care. It concerns the ridiculous "socialized" pensions they receive and never, EVER, speak out against. According to the Congressional Research Service, 413 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of Oct. 1, 2006. Of this number, 290 had retired under CSRS(Civil Service Retirement System) and were receiving an average annual pension of $60,972. A total of 123 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS(Federal Employee Retirement System) or with service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $35,952 in 2006. They only pay 1.3% of their working salary to FERS. To quote John Wayne, this is "ri-go#damdiculous!"

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cusecrane February 03, 2011 at 11:33PM

The health care fairy pays for her's.

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