Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand in Greenwich, New York

Much has changed in southern Washington County during the past two decades. Grand Union was the largest food store in the area twenty years ago; the bridge over the Hudson in Schuylerville hadn't yet been replaced; roundabouts were quaint ideas from foreign lands; Wal-Mart, still pushing the "Made in America" slogan, didn't exist in the Northeast; the Leather Stocking Farm remained in notorious hands; and local Democrats were harder to find than a warm day in winter.

If any doubts remained that the election of Kirsten Gillibrand to Congress from the 20th Congressional District this past November wasn't just a fluke, then those doubts surely were swept away by the boisterous crowd that greeted Congresswoman Gillibrand when she made an appearance in Greenwich on Saturday, March 24.

Congresswoman Gillibrand's visit to Something's Brewing, a local coffee shop, was part of her "Congress At Your Corner" program, which included similar appearances in Schuylerville, Ft Edward and was followed by a $125.00 per plate fundraising dinner at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs later that evening (a sure sign that the re-election campaign has already started).

Beth and Greg of Something's Brewing, Congresswoman Gillibrand and Greg

Beth and Greg of Something's Brewing and Congresswoman Gillibrand

By the time the Congresswoman arrived, the crowd had filled Something's Brewing way beyond capacity. Taking one look at the packed audience inside, spilling out on to the sidewalk in front, she quickly decided to move the meeting outside onto the sidewalk. It was an apt decision for the novice politician whose campaign included a pledge to have an open and transparent office. Being the first, warm sunny day of the spring didn't hurt either.

The Congresswoman began by addressing the crowd for 20 minutes on a broad range of subjects. She described the election of Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House as " . . . a wonderful thing for women all across the world". Addressing security concerns, the Congresswoman spoke of how the new Congress began funding port security and checking containers and how "that matters for us because, obviously, if a container came up the Hudson River and was unloaded there (Albany) and had radioactive material, it could destroy our entire region".

Addressing environmental issues, the Congresswoman told of the decision by Congress to take $14 million dollars in tax benefits previously given to the oil companies and redirecting them into a special fund for alternative energy, conservation technology and renewables . . . and that's a key piece of legislation for our region because we have a lot of farmland here and one of the best solutions in the alternative market is bio-fuels and ethanol . . . ".

The Congresswoman spoke at length about Iraq. "I was highly concerned to read . . .that 80% of the (Iraqi) oil revenues would be allowed to be contracted to US and foreign interests . . . that money and profit is supposed to be going to Iraqi's to rebuild their nation and rebuild their democracy". She spoke of her desire for hearings to determine how the decision was made to allow such high foreign ownership of Iraqi oil. "If the American people understood that President Bush went to war for the oil, they would be very, very concerned. That is not the appropriate mission for our soldiers and for the lives of our sons and daughters."

The Congresswoman also addressed the lack of progress in Iraq on basic security and reconstruction, stating the importance of Iraqi involvement in reconstruction and how by having local Iraqi companies involved would give a reason for the Sunnis and Kurds "to come to the table and start compromising".

"The President has already told the world he's going to veto this bill (that sets a deadline for US withdrawal), if it gets to the Senate and to me that's quite remarkable because he's really baring the will of the American people. The American people elected this Congress, 218 members of Congress voted for this resolution, from all across the nation. It was bi-partisan. Republicans voted for this resolution. . So what Congress is going to do is keep pushing".

Defending her decision to vote for the deadline on US troop withdrawal, Congresswoman Gillibrand stated "the reality on the ground is that we could stay for 20 years, we could stay for 40 years . . . and we don't have any guarantee that we'll be any better off. . . . I've talked to as many experts as I could find to brief me on Middle Eastern policy and they say 'You have a choice of two things. You can use your leverage effectually now and try to pressure these groups to come together . . . or stay and monitor it for 20 or 30 years . . . (but) your chance of success is no better then than it is now'". " When you stay, you have two problems. You have people looking at us as an occupier . . . and you also have the problem of it doesn't move the political or economic lever".

The Congresswoman spoke to the need to fully fund Veteran's needs when they return home and how Congress just increased veterans funding to the highest level since World War II.

After her remarks, Congresswoman Gillibrand took a handful of questions from the audience and then met one on one with individual constituents before heading off for another meeting.

During the question and answer session, she repeatedly asked her aides to make notes of issues raised by the audience and to get contact information so she and her staff could follow. Two staff interns stayed afterwards, writing down additional constituent problems and concerns, asking if the concerned individual desired a phone call back from the Congresswoman.

Lisa Manzi, aide to Congresswoman Gillibrand

Lisa Manzi, aide to Congresswoman Gillibrand