It's unfortunate but generally true that most people, even the most informed political junkies, do not know who their state senator is. State senate activities usually fly quietly under the radar until power struggles, and shortly thereafter, weed, emerge and combine to make the kind of news that Rupert Murdoch dreams about.
Last night, Senator Eric Schneiderman got away from the craziness in Albany and headed to District 31 on Manhattan's West Side to speak with and answer questions from concerned citizens. Prominent topics covered included, gun laws, gay marriage, progressive taxing, and, of course, health care reform. Luckily for all parties involved, crazy town hall lady was not able to pay a visit.
On progressive tax rate, Senator Schneiderman gave one of his most passionate responses as he detailed why he felt that New York's tax rate is completely backwards as the poor pay the government significantly higher percentages of their income than the rich. "The idea that low taxes produce economic growth and attract rich people, if that was true Mississippi would be the epicenter of financial power in this country," the senator said to a room in full accordance.
Senator Schneiderman also expressed his concern over the US Census, which will be distributed again next year, and the fact that the poorest communities and the communities with the most immigrants are almost always undercounted. Quite simply, the more populous a district, the more political power the people of that district have. With poorer communities consistently undercounted, their political power is weakened, and their interests become easier to shove to the side. The senator made it clear that this was not acceptable and that he wanted to get as accurate a count as possible.
Health care reform was, understandably, another topic that got significant face time last night. While politicians in Washington continue to battle over national reform, Senator Schneiderman is sponsoring a state single-payer health plan called New York Health. Naturally, with a mostly liberal audience on hand, the senator received thunderous applause when he made this known to his audience. According to Senator Schneiderman, a single-payer plan for the state would make New York even more attractive for businesses while helping those who currently cannot afford health insurance get coverage.
While this town hall may have lacked the fireworks or the complete disregard for simple human decency that other town halls have gotten coverage for over the past few weeks, it was nonetheless a perfect example of democracy at work featuring an elected official listening to and representing the needs and worries of his people.