Longtime Port Resident Maria Maddeu, who emigrated to the U.S. from Italy over 50 years ago, raised a number of issues with respect to immigration during Senator Craig Johnson's "office hours" at the Port Washington library. Taking note of Maddeu's concerns is Johnson's legislative assistant, Daniel Malesardi.
A steady flow of constituents filed through the Port Washington library to take advantage of "office hours," provided by State Senator Craig Johnson The residents expressed opinions, voiced concerns, registered complaints, got information, and/or picked up printed materials. Representing the senator was Daniel Malesardi, Johnson's legislative assistant. He said that they hold these meetings twice a month, rotating them around the district. "The district is very large," he said, "so we want to give people an opportunity to meet with us locally."
Port Washington resident Maria Maddeu, who immigrated to the United States from Italy over 50 years ago, raised a number of issues with respect to immigration. Maddeu stated that she agreed that the government should control illegal immigration, but she emphasized that we need immigrant labor. She asked rhetorically, "Who will clean the houses?" "We have to do something to make it possible for these people to work," Maddeu said. Immigration control is a federal government responsibility, but local governments have from time to time taken action. For example, former Governor Eliot Spitzer had proposed a program whereby New York state residents could be issued driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. Johnson did not support this proposal, which failed to pass the legislature.
Bob Drew, active for many years in the Port community, raised a critical issue about cable television services. He pointed out that Cablevision sent a letter to all of its subscribers in this area notifying them that unless they subscribe to Optimum services and obtain a special digital set-top box, they will not be able to get nine channels that are currently part of the "family cable" subscription. No reduction in price for the family subscription is planned, in spite of the loss of these channels. Cablevision is offering the Optimum digital service free for the first year, after which time it will be billed $11.95 monthly. "This is an outrage," said Drew. "They are trying to lock you into their service." A number of individuals with whom the Port News spoke are similarly outraged at this move. In a May 23rd article Newsday reported similar indignation among the people with whom their reporter spoke. Malesardi said that he would bring the issue to Johnson's attention, and that they would most likely notify Consumer Affairs and the Public Service Commission to look into it.
Drew and others pointed out that, because most of the incorporated villages in Port Washington have not yet approved the Verizon franchise, there is effectively no competition in much of our community. The Port News questioned whether Johnson would be willing to do anything to encourage and assist the local villages in coming to an agreement with Verizon. His spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, said that as a rule Johnson, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Local Government Committee, "is reluctant to interfere in the affairs of the local governments."
Richard Marra, a Commissioner of the Port Washington Water Pollution Control District, stopped by to reiterate his opposition to the plan floated by some public officials (for example, Comptroller Howard Weitzman and County Executive Tom Suozzi) to consolidate some of the hundreds of special taxing districts in Nassau County. He said, "If it's not broken, why fix it?" Malesardi said that Johnson has some problems with the consolidation concept. In a formal statement to the chairman of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, of which he was a member, Johnson pointed out a number of what he saw as flaws in the commission's final report. In the letter, Johnson asked, "How much would taxpayers actually save?" He said, "Without the answer to that simple question, I cannot justify wholesale consolidations, especially when many of these operations in my senate district are cost effective and highly responsive to the residents they serve."
Other issues raised by constituents during the "office hours" included the need for more varied senior citizen's programs, environmental concerns, and the need for affordable housing.
Johnson's office made available informational handouts on various topics, including Women's History Month (Johnson is supporting legislation to mandate pay equity), breast cancer awareness, benefits and incentives for volunteer emergency personnel, getting credit report information, protection against "cyberbullying," and the Long Island Rail Road Mainline Third Track Initiative (Johnson is opposed).