Barber says economy needs fixing
CATSKILL — Greene County Democrats opened their campaign office at 362 Main St., Catskill, Wednesday afternoon with a formal ribbon cutting, and NYS 51st Senate District candidate Don Barber was the guest of honor.
Barber, who hails from the western end of the district, in Tompkins County, told those present that his is a progressive agenda that focuses on improving the economy, fixing health care, and protecting family farms and the environment.
Barber touted his farming background and small business owner status — he owns a construction company with eight full-time employees — as a major difference between himself and incumbent Republican state Senator James Seward (R-Oneonta), who is seeking re-election.
“Why not have a working person representing you in Albany?” Barber said to those present.
He said Seward has “been in Albany 22 years,” and cited an increased state debt and the flight of young adults from the region as two of the results from the state over those years.
Barber also noted the size of the 51st Senatorial District, and indicated his experience with rural issues applies well to it.
“This district is huge,” he said. “It goes from here to Tompkins County,” and noted that it takes three-and-a-half hours to cross.
“This district is 10 percent of the land mass in New York State,” Barber said, adding that it includes farmlands, the Catskills and part of the Adirondacks.
Barber was first elected 15 years ago as a town councilman in Caroline, served four years, ran for supervisor, was elected, and is now in his sixth two-year term.
After the ribbon ceremony Barber said that his municipal service in the Town of Caroline offers good examples of the type of perspective he brings to government.
“There are two things especially,” he said.
“Since I’ve been on the Town Board, our tax rate has gone up less than one-percent a year for all 15 years that I’ve been on the board,” he said.
“And second, even though we were fiscally responsible, we’ve still been very progressive,” he said.
Barber said that included completion of two groundwater aquifer studies — one for the Six Mile Creek aquifer and one for the Willseyville aquifer — and surface water management of the Six Mile Creek to address flooding.
He indicated he is especially proud of the municipality’s energy policy.
“We were the second municipality in all of New York State,” said Barber, “to purchase 100 percent of our municipal electricity from a green source.”
That green source is wind energy, for which the town signed a three-year contract several years ago. In addition, he said they signed a contract for methane last year.
Barber said they have thus been “keeping the budget (down), while getting the community moved ahead.”
Barber also said the wind policy inspired the creation of a local citizens group, Energy Independent Caroline, and that on a single day in April they distributed one compact fluorescent light bulb to every household in the town.
He said it was about 100 volunteers, and that while some bulbs were delivered by car, many were also delivered by horseback, bicycle or foot.
On the issues, Barber said that he is running for Senate because, “The economy around us, and in upstate New York, needs a real boost. It needs it for our children,” he said.
“I’ve been a small, local business owner,” Barber said. “So I know the perspective of what they need. Small businesses are the basis for any economy.”
“Health care is a huge burden on business, small and large,” Barber said, “as well as a burden on our property taxes, and the solution is single-payer health care,” which he described as “publicly financed, privately delivered health care, like Medicare, for all.”
“It is the biggest impediment to starting up a business,” Barber said, “and something that makes New York State’s larger businesses non-competitive in the international market, because it’s not a burden on our competition in all the other industrial countries.”
Barber said there is also a third item that needs to be addressed.
“New York State is dysfunctional,” said Barber. “It’s known as the most dysfunctional state government in the U.S.”
Barber indicated that an initial step is correcting that condition.
“Most of the things I talked about aren’t functional until we get them out of their dysfunctional nature,” he said, and indicated that if elected, he is not opposed to reaching out to Republicans to solve the problem.
“I’m experienced working across the aisle,” he said.
“There is a great opportunity in 2009 when the State Senate changes its majority to Democrats,” Barber said. “The Senate is only two seats away from changing its majority.”
Fellow Democrats said Barber is the right man for the job.
“Don Barber,” said Greene County Democratic Party Vice chairman Brud Miller, “has a proven track record in the Town of Caroline, particularly on energy.”
“He’s a businessman,” said Miller, “and he’s not part of Albany.”
“I think he will bring a good economy for all of Greene County, as well as the rest of the district,” Miller said.
State Democratic Party Committeewoman Marie Greco of Catskill agreed.
“The man is a small businessman, and he’s a farmer,” Greco said.
“I appreciate all that he stands for,” Greco said, “and I think that he will be good for the working people of this area.”
Town of Athens Democratic Party Chairman Paul Hasbrouck also noted Barber’s experience.
“He’s a working person. He’s going to be for the working person,” Hasbrouck said. “I think that’s very important.”
“I think a lot of the politicians in this nation forgot about the working people, who built America,” he said. “They’ve gone to special interests, and I think Don Barber can bring that back.”
“Small businesses built America,” Hasbrouck said. “I think he’ll give us a little more help for the middle class.”
To reach reporter Jim Planck, call 518-943-2100, ext. 3324, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.