ELLERY - Transparency was the theme of the day for U.S. Rep. Tom Reed as he held four town hall meetings in as many counties throughout Saturday.
Chautauqua County was the first stop for the Corning-based Republican as he paid a visit to Bemus Point and approximately 20 area residents at the Ellery Town Hall at 8 a.m. to discuss a variety of items. Reed, who has held more than 100 town hall meetings in his three years with the U.S. House of Representatives, led off the meeting by stating the importance of speaking face-to-face with his constituency.
"We do these town hall (meetings) to really try to have a conversation, and try to cover whatever is on your minds," Reed said. "And I love doing these meetings because you get a real sense of what people are thinking and dealing with."
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, consults a chart on government spending during a morning meeting with area residents at Ellery Town Hall in Bemus Point on Saturday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
Reed commenced each of Saturday's series of meetings - which also included stops at Randolph, as well as Allegany and Steuben counties - by outlining current events at the national level, while subsequently sharing his stance on the subject. The first topic of conversation centered around the controversial issue of potential U.S. military involvement in Syria.
"Syria is a very serious situation," Reed said. "Just so everyone knows what my position is, I am opposed to going into Syria, and I remain opposed to it. I was a proponent of sanctions and diplomacy as an alternative to limited airstrikes, and will remain a proponent to that."
Reed went on to say getting the military involved with the conflict is not in America's national security interests, and he has seen no plans for future steps to be taken should America become militarily involved.
"We're dealing with an area of the world that's very volatile. We're dealing with a civil war where the sides both have anti-American influence in it. So not to be clear as to what the mission would be, and how we would deal with the escalation that I see coming as a result of it, is very troubling to me. So, that's another reason why we're opposed to it," Reed said.
Other topics brought to the table by Reed were the issue of a looming government shutdown, should Republicans and Democrats fail to come to terms on a continuing resolution by the end of September, as well as data indicating the national debt ceiling could potentially be breached by mid-October.
Reed said his response to these issues comes through viewing them from a positive perspective.
"We have a debt problem, we're $17 trillion in the hole and we're going in more and more every year. We have to get this thing going in the right trajectory," he said. "To me, the path and the vision needs to be clear. We've got to get our spending under control, and we've got grow this economy so we can get people back to work. So then, not only are they not on the system, they're contributing to the system. And, to me, that makes sense. So, those are the types of reforms we're looking for."
Reed then segued into a discussion on the booming "entitlement crisis," citing as an example that the trust fund for Social Security disability is expected to go bankrupt in 2016. He said this would result in an automatic, across-the-board 20 percent cut in disability payments for the program's recipients at that time.
"That is what we mean when we talk about the 'entitlement crisis,'" Reed said. "Here we are in 2013, and we don't have a plan to deal with these trust fund insolvencies that are coming down the pipeline. Other trust fund insolvencies that we're dealing with are Social Security itself, Medicare and the programs that are related to it. These are serious problems that demand that we do something about it."
Following the debriefing, Reed then took written and open-forum questions from the attendees; discussing subjects such as: immigration, agriculture, benefits and term limits for U.S. Representatives, Obamacare and welfare.