SKANEATELES | Assemblyman Gary Finch lent his ears to Skaneateles on Saturday and discovered his constituents had plenty to say.
During the town-hall-style meeting, about 30 residents spent 90 minutes discussing everything from climate change to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 with Finch, R-Springport, their state representative.
But residents kept returning to one controversial topic: hydraulic fracturing.
Although the town unanimously passed a ban on heavy industry in 2012 to keep hydrofracking out of Skaneateles, many residents expressed anxiety about what would happen to the health of the state as a whole if gas companies were permitted to drill the Marcellus Shale formation.
When Finch, who represents 126th Assembly District, told residents that a shaky economic climate would likely tip the scales in favor of hydrofracking in order to provide the state with energy independence, Mary Menapace asked Finch if he was fully aware of the havoc hydrofracking could potentially wreak on New York.
"It kind of makes me wonder if you're not living in the reality of what fracking will be," she said. "It sounds like you're a little bit out of touch."
Finch disagreed, telling Menapace he was well aware about the potential effects fracking could have on animals and roads.
However, he told residents hydrofracking was a regulatory issue, not a legislative issue. And despite the impassioned arguments of people on both sides of fracking, Finch said he didn't think Gov. Andrew Cuomo would ban the controversial practice.
"It's my understanding from people who talked him that he doesn't want to touch it," he said. "It's so volatile."
In response to the small business owners who told him they would move out of New York if the state permitted hydrofracking, Finch pointed to passing bans through home rule as the best way to protect towns.
After discussing hydrofracking at length, constituents asked Finch a volley of questions about the economy.
"We are losing jobs and we are losing sustainability," Steve McGlynn said. "What are you going to do about it?"
Pointing to Daikin McQuay's recent announcement that it plans to move its factory from Auburn to Tennessee, Finch said New York needs to find a way to make itself more competitive and recognize that taxes are driving people out of the state.
"People are clearly leaving," Finch said. "And when they do, the ones that are left have to bear the burden of extra taxes."
After responding to a few questions about abortion and the governor's proposed budget, Finch bid goodbye to his Skaneateles constituents. But before heading to a second meeting in Marcellus, Finch encouraged the crowd to keep in touch.
"We listen to you. I listen to you," he said. "My role is to be your advocate."