Last week I had the privilege to spend a day walking the halls of the State Capitol, meeting with a number of elected officials, along with several other board members from the North Country Alliance, an economic development group representing six North Country counties.
The visit was one of awareness for the legislators, and it improved our understanding of the new financial realities in Albany so we can best help our communities enhance their economic opportunities. We told them all about the NCA, and we reminded legislators of the economic importance of tourism and prisons to the North Country. We suggested that, when deliberating on prison closures, resale and/or reuse of the property and the total economic impact should be given greater consideration. And we suggested they level the playing field for small, rural communities to the state's Excelsior Job Program. All pretty mundane stuff.
If you've never paid a visit on your elected representatives in Albany, it's an interesting experience and one every citizen should find the time to do. I've been to the capitol before on similar missions, but this year's visit impressed me in ways that previous years had not. Given the state's financial issues, there was an odd air about the building that I had not seen in the past.
As you go from office to office, I was impressed with the age of the legislative staff members, most of whom are young and very articulate. Of course, it could be that as I get older, they keep looking younger, but the reality is that it's the staff that accomplish a great deal of the work conducted in Albany. They understand the issues, draft the opinions, keep their bosses on point while running interference when needed. When the boss was unavailable, staff would stand in and competently discuss the issues of the day while making clear their bosses' positions on a variety of subjects.