For the most part, I view visits from representatives and senators with a certain pessimism.
In general, their handlers have them on such a tight schedule that press access is limited and question-and-answer periods are short and topic-driven.
Not that I blame them -- when you represent a district like New York's 23rd, you generally have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time.
But that was not the case when New York's 20th Congressional District Representative Scott Murphy rolled into the Tri-Lakes region Tuesday.
He made two appearances; one in Lake Placid, and another in Keene. The LP event was certainly topic-driven, but Murphy spoke eloquently about broadband access in the North Country, likening it to rural electrification in the early 1900s:
"It is an incredibly important issue, that is, connectivity and broadband internet access here in the Adirondack Park – all over the country really," Murphy said.
"The way I see it, it’s very much akin to rural electrification when you look back 80 years ago," he added. "We had electricity come on line 120, 125 years ago and it started to spread to our cities. But they weren’t building the poles and running the wires out to our smaller communities and to the more remote locations up in the mountains and rural areas. And the government made a decision: we’re going to have to subsidize this. But it was important enough and powerful enough a tool that we needed it for our rural communities to continue to thrive and survive."
Later in the day, my colleague Jon Alexander attended a "Congress on your Corner" event in Keene. There, Murphy took even more time to speak with constituents on a whole range of issues, including state issues like the APA and the budget mess.
Most interesting, though, were the comments he made regarding America's deeply divided political state:
"We were fighting about the budget and the Democrats didn’t want to put together a budget that showed us getting to a balanced budget over time – some of us that are more centrist did – and we were arguing back and forth with leadership and going round and round," he said.
"I went to a friend of mine on the Republican side of the aisle – a very senior member – and I said ‘Hey, I think there’s a group of centrist Democrats that if we could team together with Republicans, we could put together a path to get our budget house in order and we could get it passed if the Democratic leadership doesn’t want to.’ And he said to me, ‘Oh, we’re watching you guys squirm on this issue. We’re going to be in charge of the budget next year. We don’t want to help you out."
He even commented on America's corporate media -- firing shots at both Fox News and MSNBC:
"They almost tell different versions of the same story. They tell it to ideologues on either side that are in information cocoons, who only talk to people that think like them and they miss out," he said. "I think this is so important, talking to people in the small towns that I represent so they can hear from me and make their mind up and not just get their information from MSNBC and Fox News based on what political party they belong to."
Politics aside, it's nice to see a politician speak his mind on a range of issues with an apparent disregard for what those on the left or right might think.
I also interviewed Murphy for about 20 minutes Tuesday evening. That program will air on WNBZ's North Country Today at a later date -- I'll keep you posted.