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Politics & Government

From I-81 to Nuclear Weapons, Sen. Gillibrand Takes Questions From CNYers at Town Hall Meeting

Scott Willis

The questions ranged from I-81 in Syracuse to Israel and Palestine.  And from student loan forgiveness to nuclear weapons.  A crowd of about 100 people packed into the Southwest Community Center for Tuesday night’s Town Hall with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

One of the first questions was about health care and the high cost of prescription drugs.  Gillibrand said it’s what she heard most during her 8 month presidential run.  She says the quickest way to guarantee health care for everyone is to let people buy Medicare.

"Why shouldn't they be able to spend a percentage of their income, maybe four or five percent to buy into that program.  It would create competition with the private sector.   I believe most people would chose it.  Because if you could buy health care for five percent of your income that was high quality, we would all do that."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
About 100 people filled seats on two floors of the Southwest Community Center for the town hall.

She’s also supporting the bipartisan STOP Price Gouging Act to keep drug prices under control.  Gillibrand also took a question about the public service loan forgiveness program, which President Trump wants to eliminate.  It ensures that anyone who serves in a government or not-for profit job for 10 years could have student loans forgiven.  Gillibrand wants to expand it to include jobs that address climate change…

"The truth is we're going to need a whole host of young people who want to work on the green economy, who want to be the inventors, implementers of solar and geothermal and hydropower and biofuels."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
An AARP member asked Gillibrand about seniors' vulnerability to online and phone scams.

There was also a question about seniors' vulnerability to fraud by phone and online.  Gillibrand says she’s also concerned about the data being collected on children, including her 11 and 16 year old sons.  So she wants to create a Federal Data Protection Agency to keep tabs on how we’re targeted, as well as an enforcement component.

"It think it's essential.  We also need legislation to hold social media platforms accountable.  I don't think they've ever held accountable for what happened in the last election.  The fact that Russians were able to buy Facebook pages with Rubles?!  Unbelievable!  They should have figured that one out."

There were also a few questions about military spending and foreign policy, including one about President Trump’s peace plan between Israel and Palestine.  Gillibrand feels the Trump administration could hold Israel more accountable. 

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Sen. Gillibrand answers a question from the audience.

"You can hold your best friends accountable.  I do believe the US and Israel have a very special, unbreakable bond.  But that also means working with your ally to do the right thing.  I don't think President Trump has had a productive relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I don't think he ever challenges him when he disagrees with his views.  American presidents in the past have always done that."

Gillibrand says she’s working on a two state solution in the Armed Services Committee that prioritizes human rights on both sides. She also touched on her Build Local, Hire Local act to allow for training of local workers for projects like I-81.  And she also mentioned legislation aimed at curbing the president’s  war and nuclear weapons powers and restoring them to Congress.