OSWEGO — With the primary elections fast approaching in the Empire State, Red Creek’s Roger Misso — campaigning for the right to challenge Congressman John Katko in November — visited the Port City Wednesday to explore the environmental issues that affect the area.
A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, former Naval flight officer and Wayne County native, Misso rallied Oswegonians at the Roy C. McCrobie Building Wednesday for a “climate crisis” town hall, marking the latest in a series of issue-focused gatherings across the district, comprised of the counties of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne and the western portion of Oswego. The former Navy flight officer announced his bid to unseat the incumbent Katko, R-Camilus, in 2019.
The issues presented during the town hall ranged from seeking alternatives to carbon-based technologies and self-sustainability to the devastation brought upon by the unprecedented water levels along the Lake Ontario shore.
“What we are talking about today isn't about just taking action and thinking that is going to prevent things from happening,” Misso told a packed McCrobie building, speaking to the effects of climate change that can be observed today. “We are talking about taking action today to make sure things later on don't get worse.”
Containing the record high-water levels along the lake shore, which Misso addressed as “historic 100-year-floods,” has been a pillar of Misso’s campaign. Earlier last year, the Red Creek native released a three-part plan to address the situation, which included an immediate revision of the current water-regulation strategy employed by the International Joint Commission — the organization that oversees shared waterways between the U.S. and Canada.
“The reality for folks living in Oswego and living along the lakeshore for the past three years is that we have seen our second 100-year flood in the last three years, and we are gearing up for our third. That is unsustainable,” he said. “It is important to recognize climate change plays a significant role in what is happening along our lakeshore today. The IJC has also played a significant role in all of this, but the extreme change in levels from one year to another is a hallmark of climate change.”
Plan 2014, which went into effect in 2017 with the stated intention of returning the shared U.S.-Canadian waters to a more natural state, has been long criticized by officials at all levels of government. Current water levels have already surpassed measurements for this time of year taken in 2017 and 2019 — both years that saw devastating flooding.
“Plan 2014 had the best intentions, but it needs to be amended and needs to protect businesses and homeowners so folks can have a future and nobody should be expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars to clean up after flood damage,” Misso said.
Misso’s plan also includes federal investment to rebuild and strengthen the lakeshore.
“If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, we need to be serious about the type of resources it is going to take to fight back,” Misso said. “We need reservoirs and water tanks that have the ability to absorb the capacity of high water levels and let out the capacity when levels are low.
The implementation of these measures could be beneficial to the local economy, Misso added
“We can create jobs in the production of those systems,” he said. “All it takes is a political will to get it done.”
Misso took aim at Katko for not being a member of the Great Lakes task force — a coalition of federal elected officials who represent districts in the vicinity of the Great Lakes system.
“He is nowhere to be found,” Misso said. “He likes to trash the IJC and that is a sport, I know, but he has no plan for what comes next and that is important.”
District residents attending the event noted the importance of climate change as a political issue and chimed in on the measures their representatives in Congress should take.
Julia Koeppe, a professor of chemistry at SUNY Oswego who has attended multiple local events in support of NY-24 Democratic candidates over the last year, noted she expects her representative in Congress to tend to local needs, as well as have a broad perspective when it comes to environmental issues.
“Keeping the needs of the local population is important, but also recognizing that we are part of a bigger system,” she told The Palladium-Times. “You want to look out for the people here. You want to make sure that we have clean drinking water. You want to make sure we have clean air, but it's not enough for the local Congressperson to just look at the (residents in the district) because climate change is a global issue.”
Nichole Reynoso, a local climate change activist and chemistry major at SUNY Oswego who has attended and participated in previous Democratic town halls and the Global Climate Strike orchestrated at college campuses across the world, highlighted the importance of young activism in what she called the current “climate crisis.”
“I feel like a lot of people are very enthusiastic about helping, but I feel like young adults have the least free time,” she said. “We have so much to do, but we have to be the driving force for everybody to join in on the action. There is a lot of enthusiasm over all ”
Misso will face fellow Democrats Dana Balter and Francis Conole in the June 23 primary