Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 08 October 2010 00:00
It’s that time of the election year again when incumbents and challengers alike flock to local libraries care of the League of Women Voters to voice their views on current topics and issues surrounding the respective areas they hope to either continue to or to newly represent.
The League of Women Voters of Eastern Nassau played host to Meet the Candidates Night at the East Meadow Library last week. Incumbents and challengers from the 6th and 8th Senate Districts, 17th and 19th Assembly Districts were on hand to take questions from the audience in an effort to clarify their take on Albany, Long Island and more.
LWV President Carol Goldfarb moderated the panel. Election redistricting was a major topic of discussion to start off the forum, as well as whether or not an independent committee or the state should handle it if redistricting were to be implemented.
Political districts are sometimes unclear and confuse residents, according to Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R-East Meadow). He said that jurisdictions are very complex and unless you know the system, it’s tough to understand.
“I represent the 17th Assembly District,” he said. “I represent many areas, but East Meadow in particular is split four ways. We are located in Michael Montesano’s district right now. Across the street is my district. My parents live 300 feet away from this library and they’re in someone else’s district. It’s complex.”
His challenger, Tom Devaney, a Democrat from Williston Park, described his interactions with residents of the 17th District and further explained the complex nature of the assembly districts. “Too many times I’ve gone around and met people who say they live in the district and I ask what town they live in,” he said. “They’ll say ‘Okay I live in Williston Park’ and I’ll ask what block or what side. It’s ridiculous and it needs to be redistricted.”
6th Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said there needs to be an open book on both sides if redistricting were to occur. Hannon stated that he recently joined with former Mayor Ed Koch in his uprising in budget reform and redistricting.
“There is a need to have transparency and confidence in government,” he said. “That would be needed to do redistricting according to those lines. We know that not everyone has agreed to that process and even if you agreed to their principles, there’ll be a question as to what’s independent? That’s always difficult when you do it in a nominal fashion or whether you come up with people who are independent, non-partisan, objective and that will be difficult to achieve.”
John L. Brooks, Assemblyman Dave McDonough’s challenger in the 19th District, commended the idea of redistricting with a few tweaks. McDonough was not present at the forum.
“I’m all for redistricting but there should be some things added,” Brooks said, who is a resident of Seaford. “I would add two requirements; one is the introduction of term limits for the people up in Albany, the other is a greater ability for voters to put referendums on the ballot when Albany is not addressing the issues that need to be addressed.”
Dysfunction and corruption in Albany topic were among topics discussed and the candidates were asked what they would do if re-elected or elected. One audience member asked about the prospect of voting out every incumbent no matter what party and starting from scratch.
6th Senate District Democratic candidate Francesca Carlow of Plainview stated that she believes that there’s a need for new voices in Albany and that people need to step up and address the issues permeating the capitol.
“If people do not step up and make our elected officials responsible, it’s going to be hard,” she said. “My opponent has issued over 600 taxes and fees on the citizens for Nassau County. Unless we address the problems, nothing’s going to change.”
Toward the end of the night, Hannon stated that for the most part, Carlow had been addressing topics in generalities and didn’t base anything on fact. “I’m not going to make any vague allegations without specifics,” he said. “Because I haven’t heard a specific thing the entire time Ms. Carlow has been talking.”
8th Senate District democratic candidate Carol Gordon of Massapequa expressed her discontent toward the make-up of Albany. Incumbent Sen. Charles Fuschillo was not present at the forum.
“I believe what’s up in Albany is saddening,” she said. “What I plan on doing is have committees set up in all the communities to express the current issues and that will be addressed in Albany.”
Brooks stated that Albany has earned the reputation of being so dysfunctional that major change is needed if Albany is to get back to where it once was. “There’s no question that it’s dysfunctional,” he said. “We need to limit the time people are in Albany. We need ethics reform; we need everyone in the Assembly and the Senate to give full financial disclosure. If they refuse to do it, they should be removed from the body.”
The panel addressed childcare programs. A resident asked what they would do to raise subsidies from the state or federal government for pre-K programs, Head-Start programs and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Tom Devaney said that education needs to be affordable and available to everyone.
“My mother has been a speech pathologist for over 30 years so I see firsthand that education is key for surviving the future,” he said. “It needs to be affordable for everybody. Get the kids in early and learning.”
Carlow agreed with Devaney’s sentiments. She said that education as a whole has many problems that will require fixing over an extended period of time.
“We have to address where the problem is stemming from,” she said. “Starting from the top in the state in Albany, if we address the problems up there, it’ll be a good start.”
Business owners present at the forum slammed the sales tax increase on clothing that went into effect Oct. 1. One owner asked about the conversation “inside the inner sanctum inside New York’s Albany when you measured the cost of raising clothing purchases from 4.625 to 8.625 percent. Did you think that people will not travel to Queens for cheaper clothing? Won’t this drive businesses out of New York State?”
McKevitt said that in 2007, he voted on a law that said the governor would submit a budget, hold public hearings and each house would submit its own version of the budget. Furthermore, he said conference committees would be held to come up with a way of “reconciling revenues and expenditures.” “In the last few years, that didn’t happen,” McKevitt said. The majority in each house determined that they were going to do it behind closed doors and guessing upon what happened, they determined a certain amount of money they wanted to spend without looking at where the revenues were and they said fine.
“We won’t increase spending to find money. So let’s go and take away a sales tax exemption. Let’s find a ton of other fees,” McKevitt said.
McKevitt said they were trying to nickel and dime people as much as they can. He said he’s against that process because, “instead of having a deliberation and a conversation and a debate on how to get the budget, they tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.”
Brooks said that with the increase in costs, businesses are leaving and that has to stop.
“I think, even though I wasn’t in Albany at the time, this state has gone from the Empire State to the vampire state,” he said. “The state legislature sucks every penny and nickel and dime out of your pocket for a tax. It’s out of control. We’re spending money so fast that they look at any avenue they can to raise funds. We’ve got to get into a situation where we get control over state spending.”