As part of his campaign to develop support for the federal health plan proposed by the Obama Administration, Scott Murphy, the newly elected U.S. Representative (Dem., 20th District), toured some of the small, outlying towns in his district during late summer. He held a pre-announced visit to the Stony Creek Mercantile, a restaurant at the Four Corners in the center of town at 4:30 p.m. on August 19. A civic-minded group of residents of Stony Creek, including several town officials, joined by a few people from neighboring Thurman, Johnsburg and Warrensburg, crowded around the counter and tables to ask questions. This was the first time any U.S. Representative from the district had officially visited Stony Creek since the beloved Congressman Jerry Solomon had marched at the head of the Stony Creek Mountain Days parade twenty years earlier.
There were no questions about the details of the President's universal health care proposal, but instead the Representative responded to a number of lively, articulate statements against the controversial Administration plan, especially about the potential cost, from the conservative-minded people from this predominantly Republican town. There was just one exception; a kindly citizen from Johnsburg briefly remarked about the nation's duty to make health care available to all. After the question and response period was over, Rep. Murphy devoted the rest of his time before the group to a generic speech promoting national health care legislation.
The first question of the afternoon came from a businessman from Warrensburg, who complained that economic stimulus money had not come to that town. Economic development was the issue on which Mr. Murphy had build his recent candidacy, and he promised to look into this.
As president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., I considered this visit to a restaurant only three miles from our home to be an opportunity. Before Mr. Murphy entered the restaurant, I presented him with a letter asking for his help against New York state policies making housing unaffordable in the Adirondacks.
Speaking right after Mr. Murphy finished his reply to the businessman from Warrensburg, I pointed out there are two methods of economic development. One was the infusion of funds and the other was relieving the burden of regulation. Here in the Adirondacks, the APA and the DEC prevent access to housing, I said. I pointed out that in the Adirondacks there are six million acres of land, of which three million were state-owned, and beyond that, the state owns the development to another 700,000 acres. The state owns half the land in Stony Creek, I said. But it had just decided to buy another 1,000 acres of development rights. (Much of this new acquisition is just a couple of miles from the restaurant.)
I said that this should be an area for federal involvement. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is currently enforcing a legal settlement with Westchester county to make more housing available in wealthy communities such as Scarsdale. I said that recognizing this issue as a federal housing issue could be a way to deal with the APA and DEC. "What did you think," I asked.
Mr. Murphy said that he hears a lot about this issue. He spoke about a man in Lake Placid having trouble getting his project through the APA, even though he is a commissioner. He remarked that he talks to State Senator Betty Little. He gave some advice: He advised the people to talk to legislators from out of the area. In closing, he said, "Federal fair housing is an interesting idea. I have to think about it."
Later on, an older man whose family members trace their origins back several generations in Stony Creek pointed out that the young generation can live in the city in housing available there, but would like to stay here. However, he said, the young generation needs houses to stay in. He mentioned a project that the late former town supervisor had wanted to pursue. He said that the young need to be able to live here year round.
Mr. Murphy replied with a question, "Are there any developments on the table?"
I jumped in with the exclamation, "How can they?"
Mr. Murphy pointed to me, and exclaimed, "It's the same thing!"
A few speakers later, a woman asked for assistance. She said that she has property but cannot build on it for her daughter on account of the APA. Mr. Murphy listened intently.
The cozy meeting convened by Rep. Murphy to promote the President's health plan turned out quite contrary to the goal, but instead revealed the intensity of local concern about private property rights in Stony Creek.
- Carol W. LaGrasse, August 20, 2009
Letter from Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., to U.S. Representative Scott Murphy, August 19, 2009
of Peter J. LaGrasse, Chairman of the Stony Creek Board of
Assessors, to the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities
Authority, in opposition to the issuance of tax-exempt bonds to
finance The Nature Conservancy's purchase of Finch, Pruyn lands
in the Adirondacks (City Hall, Glens Falls, N.Y., December 2,
2008). This testimony analyzes the loss of development potential
to the two towns as a result of the state's potential acquisition
of development rights in an accessible, developable area of Stony
Creek and adjacent Thurman served by the same town highway.