Editorial: Meeting the new congressman

Kingston Times Editor Dan Barton.

When the 113th U.S. Congress takes its seat next month, it’ll be something new for Ulster County residents: For the first time in a long time, Ulsterites will have neither a county native nor a Democrat as their representative in the House, as Chris Gibson, the incumbent Republican who hails from Columbia County, will be their guy in Washington. How that works out for both liberal Ulster residents and Gibson is a story yet to unfold but the two encountered one another two Saturdays ago (Dec. 1) outside Old Dutch Church. It was the opening session of the Kingston Winter Farmers Market; both Gibson and Maurice Hinchey were on hand for the festivities. Also in attendance were about seven or eight protesters who had come to, well, maybe “ambush” is too strong a word for what actually happened, but they were there because Gibson was there. (A representative identifying himself as being from an entity called Citizen Action of New York called us Friday to let us know this.)

Hinchey, who this week is embarking on a farewell tour throughout the soon-to-be-history 22nd New York Congressional District, got his usual warm reception. I’ve been covering him in various capacities since I wrote for the SUNY New Paltz Oracle, and I will miss the guy — agree or disagree with him, you know where he stands on things, he’s consistent with these stances and doesn’t cater to political trends.

While we didn’t endorse Gibson last month, I will say that he and Hinchey share some good points: Gibson is clear about what he stands for and, like Hinchey, doesn’t talk down to people or try to snow them with generalities and somebody else’s talking points. Our editorial board meeting with him in October was the most informationally dense sit-down with a politician that I’ve ever experienced. (Shayne Gallo’s last year coming in a very close second.) Gibson thinks big about the big issues, he’s got some very detailed plans to tackle these issues and he will talk to you like an adult. One may not agree with the content of his ideas or how he’s voted, but he deserves credit for his approach.

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That approach was in evidence Saturday. After he got done walking around Bethany Hall, greeting market-goers and checking stuff out, Gibson went right out to the protesters and started a dialogue. I was there for most of it — the protesters, a few of whom were pretending to be obnoxious rich people hell-bent on filching even more middle-class money, argued for increased taxes on the rich and more government spending as the way to get the economy going. Gibson, as he did in his interviews with us and during the campaign, stressed bipartisanship and noted that he was one of a very few members of Congress to vote for, as opposed to promise to vote for and then ditch, the Simpson-Bowles-based Cooper-LaTourette budget plan. But he also argued for the Republican thesis to fixing the economy: consumer consumption has to go up, and raising taxes on anybody will hinder consumption. Put another way, increase the tax “base,” as it were, by keeping more money in private hands and people will spend more and make more and the government will enjoy increased revenues borne of that increased consumption.

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