Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ford: Real Leadership Now!

I visited Port Chester yesterday in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York State as part of my continued travels around the state. Thanks to my new friends Wayne Benach and his incredible team at the Port Chester Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center for the high level of care they provide their constituents and customers - who are some of the sweetest people I've met since starting this effort.

Two things are clear from my visit - New York's appointed Senator should visit this center before voting again to cut funding for the home and raise taxes on the senior citizens who live there and are rehabilitated there. According to management at the home, the Senator has yet to even respond to their request for a visit to the Port Chester facility.

Second, cut taxes. I stopped at Mcdonald's for a breakfast sandwich and coffee before getting to the nursing home. I was recognized by a small business owner who had stopped for a cup of coffee too. "Please cut taxes for us small businesses being hammered by Washington and Albany," he said. Not wanting to be named, he runs a small business consulting firm, he said, and employs 3 people. He wasn't alone. The small IT firm execs I saw at the deli we stopped by for lunch in Port Chester before heading back to New York City said the same things. "It's too much," one of them said as it relates to State and Federal taxes.

Finally, I met an adorable 3 year old at the deli, who was there for lunch with her grand parents. Her message was direct and simple - and quickly solvable if I run and win. "I want more playgrounds," she yelled while jumping up and down.


Below you will find the article written in the Lower Hudson newspaper about yesterday's visit.

Likely Senate challenger Ford visits Port Chester nursing home

Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

PORT CHESTER — Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. stumped in the Lower Hudson Valley on Tuesday, acting very much like the Senate hopeful he may soon become.

Ford, who has all but announced a run for the seat held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, toured Port Chester Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre to meet staff and residents — and to talk health-care reform and politics.

"One of the things that I would hope and I know that the Centre would hope — and for that matter the residents, most importantly, in this community would hope — is that Congress and the Senate not take steps and impose drastic cuts and impose greater burdens on Medicaid and Medicare for the state of New York," Ford said.

"But the specific purpose of the day is to gain a firsthand perspective and a firsthand understanding of how these cuts and how this health-care reform package will impact everyday middle-class New Yorkers," he said.

Ford's visit to the Port Chester facility, recently awarded a five-star rating by the Department of Health and Human Services, delved deeper into politics as well.

For instance, the 39-year-old investment banker said he favored tax cuts for new businesses, including short-term exemptions from payroll taxes. And though he suggested his decision on seeking the seat may still be several weeks away, he sounded like a man already running.

"If I decide to run, I'd like to be on the ballot," Ford said. "I've heard and believe that there's some pressure being imposed, some external pressures to encourage the committees, the party committees, to move now to endorse. And with there only being one candidate in the race, there's only one person to endorse."

Gillibrand was appointed last year by Gov. David Paterson to the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was named secretary of state. Gillibrand's only announced Democratic challenger is union leader and organizer Jonathan Tasini.

Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin shot back that Ford "is a lifelong Tennessee politician who grew up in Washington, inherited his father's congressional seat, and then took a job as a Wall Street executive at Merrill Lynch."

Caplin said Ford "would be the only Democrat in the Senate to side with Republicans to oppose President Obama's health-care plan that would provide quality care to 2.7 million New Yorkers."

Whatever develops in the Senate race, Wayne Benach, president and owner of the Port Chester nursing home, said Ford's visit was welcome.

With the uncertainty facing the long-term health-care industry, any attention was good, he said.

"In the scope of health care, the voice of the long-term care community is negligible," Benach said. "So anybody who could help bring attention to our cause and what we need, it's invaluable.

"I don't know what's in it for this industry anymore," he said. "We're 70 percent labor. Our costs are 70 percent labor, and we can't cut labor. We can't cut without affecting the care we give. So we're in a real quandary, and I don't know where relief is going to come for our industry. It can only help, because we have nowhere to go but up."