TUPPER LAKE - Congressional candidate Aaron Woolf says he wants to serve by example.
The Democrat met with several people Monday afternoon at developer Tom Lawson's office on Park Street to learn about the Adirondack Club and Resort project. Tom was not present, but his wife, Susan, was.
Woolf lauded the project, saying it was a good example of a balance between environmental concerns and development in the Adirondack Park.
Jim LaValley, right, a local real estate broker and chairman of Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, shows congressional candidate Aaron Woolf a model of the Adirondack Club and Resort.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
Congressional candidate Aaron Woolf, right, speaks to a group of people at Tom Lawson’s Park Street, Tupper?Lake office Monday, including Tupper Lake Democratic Committee Chairman Dean Lefebvre.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
"This is really what the Adirondacks are all about," Woolf said. "The conservationists and the developers that hated each other when I was a kid have found common ground, and I think this is an example of that."
Jim LaValley, local real estate broker and chairman of Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, stood behind the pool-table-sized model of the ACR and walked Woolf through the different aspects of the resort.
Woolf said he believes most people in the North Country are "in the middle," meaning they want to protect the environment while also promoting responsible development and economic growth. He said the ACR is just one example of how that can be accomplished in the region.
"We're seeing many different beacons of light throughout the district," Woolf said. "Some of that is in new fields, like biotech in Saranac Lake, but some of that is in the things we always did really well around here, which is agriculture, forestry and tourism. We've done a very good job helping natural communities thrive. We've done a very good job rescuing the environment from the 19th century, but we need to have human communities to thrive. If we do that well, this is going to be a global model and it's going to be something we need federal support for."
Woolf warned that federal decisions do affect people in New York's 21st Congressional District. He criticized the government sequester in 2013 and said the public sector should be in the service of the private economy.
"I think the role of the federal government should be to provide the tools for businesses to thrive, but not be the business," Woolf said. "Infrastructure investment is huge. When we make bold and thoughtful investments, we do so in a way that has rewards that we couldn't even imagine."
Woolf reminded everyone that New York is the state that built the Erie Canal, which brought the wealth of the Midwest into the Northeast in the early 1800s and subsequently enhanced New York City as a chief port. Today, Woolf said investments need to be made on things like broadband service to keep the district, and the state, competitive.
Even the best laid plans need support to happen, and for that Woolf prescribes bringing "North Country civility to Washington" by bringing all sides to the table during a debate.
"Think about the Common Ground Alliance; think about the Regional Economic Development Councils," Woolf said. "That is the exact opposite of what Washington has been doing. Washington has been the portrait of dysfunction, people that can't come to common ground. We don't have to agree with everybody about everything to get things done."
Woolf added that trust has to be rebuilt in Washington, and that can be done one representative at a time. It was clear that he succeeded in building that trust, at least with a few people in Lawson's office.
Rick Dattola, the Tupper Lake Democratic Party vice chairman, said he would support Woolf in the Nov. 4 election, but first he asked him what he thinks about education. Woolf said education is the single most important investment that can be made. He said his parents are educators, and he criticized the Common Core standards, saying he doesn't think the one-size-fits-all approach works and that local control should remain with the teachers.
"The best scientific lab in the world is right here in the Adirondack Park," Woolf said. "But our teachers don't even have time to take the students out into the woods because their curriculum is so mandated. I believe very strongly that the school boards and the teachers and administrators should have the power to teach to their level of conditions."
Woolf also said an emphasis needs to be placed on the arts because it facilitates creative thinking, something that is necessary in business. He pointed to the ACR as an example of that.
"To me, arts programs are fundamental," Woolf said. "To me, a forward-thinking society puts its faith in the next generation. Frankly, some of the ways that the government has done a poor job is that we've stopped acting out of faith and started acting out of fear."
Tupper Lake Democratic Committee Chairman Dean Lefebvre and his wife, Tupper Lake town Councilwoman Kathy Lefebvre, both said they were impressed by Woolf and would endorse him. Dean said the local Democratic Party is endorsing him, too.
"I don't always vote party lines; I vote for the person," Dean said. "I'm a believer that if someone has an endorsement from Paul Ryan, that's not a good thing for the North Country."
Dean was referring to Ryan's endorsement of Republican candidate Elise Stefanik. He also said Stefanik's work with former President George W. Bush shouldn't be seen as good experience.
"I think what we see in Aaron is what we see in Bill Owens," Dean said. "He's a moderate, and he's a good fit for the district. I know Bill Owens, and he would not have endorsed Aaron if he didn't truly believe he is the best candidate."