Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, served six terms in Congress before announcing his retirement this year. Quinn is a Republican from a district with a majority of Democratic voters, and is regarded as one of the most popular elected leaders in the area. He discussed his experiences in Congress and his impending retirement.
Q: How would you describe your experience as a moderate Republican, particularly in dealing with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay?
A: Since the first day I came to Congress, I made up my mind that I would do what was in the best interests of the people of Buffalo and Western New York. Sometimes that meant that I voted with my party, and sometimes it meant that I voted against it.
While we have clashed over issues that I felt were important to my constituents, I have always made it clear to DeLay how I would be voting on controversial legislation. This up-front relationship has allowed him and others to accommodate my views as best as possible.
Q: Passenger rail supporters fear that, in your absence, there will be pressure to end Amtrak's inter-city passenger rail service and shut down the rail system's money-losing lines. How do you respond?
A: While I have been identified as one of the strongest supporters of passenger rail service in America, there are several other members of Congress that will be able to step in after I leave office. I know that there are many good and hard-working members of the Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Railroads who feel like I do that Amtrak funding needs to be preserved and increased.
Q: How have the local projects you were going to shepherd been affected by your impending retirement, specifically the $10 million the federal government is expected to invest in site development and access to the proposed Bass Pro retail center in the former Aud?
A: The vast majority of the nearly $100 million in federal funds I have been able to secure for the Erie Canal Harbor and the outer harbor is intact and already part of public law. Of that $100 million, nearly $80 million of it is untouchable and will be used to revitalize and improve the harbor far into the future. The proposed agreement between the Bass Pro Outdoor World people and Empire State Development Corp. is not at all dependent upon the federal funds that are now held up in a reauthorization bill. Even if we are not able to get a bill this year, the Bass Pro project will still be on track.
Q: You threatened to divert $50 million in federal aid if progress wasn't made on work being done at the inner harbor. Are you satisfied that work is progressing there?
A: I am satisfied at this point. As you know, nearly two years ago I invited all the inner harbor interested parties to sit together at the same table and talk about the projects and its funding. Up to that point, those 13 different parties had never been in the same room, let alone on the same page as to what their goals and plans were for the harbor development.
Following that initial get-together, we have held quarterly update meetings with specific goals and schedules that we have so far been able to meet. Since I first threatened the reallocation of the $50 million in funds, we have seen the completion of the Veterans Park, the groundbreaking of the nature park and major progress toward Bass Pro bringing one of its superstores to the Erie Canal Harbor.
We have a framework in place that will allow us to continue making progress.