AV Interview: Antoine Thompson
by Geoff Kelly - posted 12:58 pm, February 12, 2009
Last week we met with State Senator Antoine Thompson, a second-term legislator who seems to have positioned himself well to direct a great deal of public investment into Western New York in the next couple years.
Thompson was co-chair of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee (the first African-American senator to hold that post), and so played a key role in winning the Democrats their first majority in both houses of the state legislature in decades. In reward, Thompson was made deputy majority whip and chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee. That committee steers a lot of capital, and even more money will likely flow through it in the next two years thanks to the federal stimulus package.
So we thought we’d better talk to the chairman to hear his plans. The full interview will appear in next week’s print edition, but I thought I’d share just a little bit of it today:
Antoine Thompson: The Youth Conservation Corps is a program that was started in the 1980s. It was generally funded by the feds, but the state never put a dollar in the program. Now, with the federal stimulus, the Department of Labor is going to put more money into the Youth Conservation Corps, which is going to hire thousands of kids and young adults in the state. But the state still wasn’t going to put any money into it to promote working in parks, dealing with everything from weatherization to recycling in communities, a whole host of things that can promote conservation,—in addition to working with youth bureaus across the state. AmeriCorps is a great program. Wouldn’t it be logical to expand that effort with an environmental focus, where young people who go through a successful program like AmeriCorps can then apply for Youth Conservation Corps money, and those young people would then be trained in conservation, doing conservation projects in cities towns and villages all over the state?
That program’s my baby, so I’m really pushing to get $30 million in the budget to go with whatever federal money comes in.
AV: You mention federal stimulus money, some of which will be directed toward developing renewable energy, creating so-called “green collar” jobs, and other environmental projects. How specifically will your chairing the committee that will consider these projects benefit Western New York?
Antoine Thompson: First of all, I never try to promise more than I can deliver, but I always try to deliver more than I promise.
Most of this money is going to come in chunks to various parts of state government. When we talk about waterfront revitalization money, my committee is the committee that allocates $27 million a year in waterfront revitalization money. EPF. So when we talk about getting money out of the state for waterfront revitalization, yours truly will be the one who’s working those meetings and deciding how much of that money can come to Western New York.
Read more next week.