Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 02 December 2011 00:00
The Port Washington/Manhasset chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) held a Meet the Candidates Forum for the Police Commissioner candidates, incumbent James Duncan and challenger Peter Faulk, on Monday, Nov. 28 at the Weber Middle School Auditorium. The LWV sponsors this forum each year to give the community the opportunity to ask questions and learn the candidates’ viewpoints.
Since the moderator needs to be a LWV member who lives outside of the voting area and this election is for Port Washington residents, Judy Jacobson of Manhasset, service director and 2nd vice president of LWV, was the moderator. At the beginning of the debate, she stated that Paul Faulk called the League of Women Voters on the morning of the debate and said that he was ill and could not attend. “According to League policy, if a candidate has agreed to a meeting date and cancels very close to the scheduled debate, the debate can be conducted with an empty chair,” she said. Jacobson read the procedures of this forum, and said that each candidate signed a copy of the procedures and agreed to abide by the rules. She explained that the audience could ask questions after the opening statements, which had a time limit of three minutes, and each candidate would be allowed one and a half minutes to answer the question.
James Duncan has served as police commissioner since 1997. In his opening statement, Commissioner Duncan said, “As a third generation member of the community, I have lived in Port Washington my whole life.” Providing more information on his background, Duncan stated that after earning a degree from SUNY Farmingdale, he joined the military and was a commander in Vietnam where he earned the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. After being honorably discharged at the rank of captain, he became a Nassau County Police Officer, serving 23 years and receiving several awards. Duncan also stated that he was a member of the Port Washington Fire Department since the age of 18 and was captain, board member and the longest serving president of Flower Hill Hose Co. #1. “Public service has always been an important focus in my life, and a passion that has led me to further serve the Port Washington community as one of your police commissioners,” Duncan said. In addition, he noted that he is the owner and operator of a local business.
He also described his involvement with the school, by serving on the School Task Force committee, and said that he fully supports the work of the School Resource Officer and supports obtaining special funding for school safety projects. “I firmly believe that we must ensure safety and piece of mind for our most precious resource: our children,” Duncan said, noting that AAA has awarded the police district 10 citations for community safety.
Duncan also went into detail on the police district budget, stating that the 2012 budget achieves the state mandate of the 2 percent tax cap. “I require complete transparency in our budget process, which includes public participation at many of our budget workshops,” Duncan said, adding that during the past five years, the district has returned to the community $3.6 million in the form of budget reductions. “Written policies and procedures have been established to prevent and eliminate discrepancies and to streamline operation. The district now runs like a business,” he said.
Judy Jacobson then asked the audience if they had any questions for Commissioner Duncan, and one person asked, “Why are there so many police cars going through town with flashing lights, as if there is emergency upon emergency, as if we’re a heavy crime area?”
Duncan explained that there are various emergencies in Port Washington, and noted that it is a heavily traveled area with numerous auto accidents that require response from the police. He also explained that a police car is sent to every “Aided Case,” which is an occurrence where a person is injured or sick, such as a person having a heart attack. “The first 10 seconds of that heart attack are critical,” Duncan said, noting that all of their police cars are equipped with defibrillators to help save someone’s life in this situation. He also said it would be a good idea for the police district to regularly put something in the paper on the number of Aided Reports they have per week to inform the public on police responses to emergencies.
The final question from a local resident had two parts. First, he asked where Duncan stands on the PWPD needing a new or updated facility. His second question related to the Model Blocks project, which deals with revitalizing Main Street. He noted that a police officer was at the presentation, and asked if the police district is supporting this project.
First addressing the question on police headquarters, Duncan said that the Civilian Building Committee would be inducted on Thursday, Dec. 1. He explained that this committee includes seven knowledgeable community members, such as architects and building specialists, and police officers and the Board of Commissioners will also be involved with this committee. Meetings will probably start after the first of the year, he said, and they will works towards setting a goal and will move from there. Duncan said that he would not make any decision at this time regarding the police facility because the entire board makes the decision.
Regarding the question on the Model Blocks project, Duncan said that all three commissioners attended the presentation and provided their concerns that they asked to have addressed. One of their concerns was that roadways should not be impeded. “If that came to fruition, we would have to object, just like we did with the parking lot,” he said.
In his closing statement, Duncan thanked the LWV for the opportunity to speak to voters. He said, “I hope I have given you an outline of the importance of the job of Port Washington Police Commissioner and an understanding of the skills needed to do the job successfully…. Now is the time for consistency, experience, and stability so that we may continue the efficiencies achieved in the district’s operation and personal service areas, while delivering high value safety and enforcement services to the citizens of Port Washington.”
The Port Washington Police District election will be held at the Polish American Citizens Association building, located at 5 Pulaski Place, on Tuesday, Dec. 13 from noon to 9 p.m. The elected commissioner will serve a three-year term beginning on January 1, 2012 and ending on December 31, 2014.