As Town Clerk in Clarkstown for the past nine years, I’ve heard from and worked with tens of thousands of residents and small business owners – helping them navigate complicated tax bills; apply for tax relief programs they’ve earned and deserve; and issued licenses for things like disabled parking permits, hunting and fishing, and marriages.
I’ve always thought that the number one part of my job was to listen – to hear people out and understand what they needed. In addition to what I’ve heard over the past nine years as Clerk, voters throughout this campaign have told me what they care about.
Healthcare is an important issue to me. When my grandfather’s health was failing, I saw the impact of how medical bills can turn a life upside down – he was more concerned with the impact his health was having on the family and the family business.
The fact is no one should go bankrupt because of healthcare costs. Access to quality healthcare should be an inalienable right. The COVID-19 crisis highlights this reality. The system of relying on employer-based healthcare has failed, with too many people who work full-time still not having access to health insurance.
When I’m State Senator, on Day One, I will sign on to sponsor the NY Health Act, which will move New York towards truly universal coverage.
Quality public education is a big reason why people live in the Hudson Valley. It’s why my grandparents moved up to the Hudson Valley; it’s why my parents stayed here; and it’s why my wife and I call the Hudson Valley our home, sending our children to the same Clarkstown schools we both attended ourselves.
But for too many, the system has failed the students for too long. The quality of schools shouldn’t be dependent on property taxes. For too long, we’ve relied on property taxes to fund our local schools, an inherently flawed, regressive system. As your State Senator, I will fight to dramatically increase the amount of state aid going directly to our public schools, reducing the reliance on local property taxes. That will ensure that the quality of education doesn’t depend on how nice a house looks.
We also need to ensure that schools in need receive the aid they deserve. School districts like East Ramapo and Ossining have been promised millions of dollars in aid for more than a decade, only for those promises to be unfulfilled. I will fight to make sure our schools receive the funding they deserve.
We also need to properly fund vocational education opportunities. For too long, we’ve been told a false-truth that college is the only way to success. There is honor and dignity in blue collar trades work. I will work to ensure real access to quality vocational education opportunities for all students.
Support Working Families
My family and I are blessed. We have a house, food on the table, and love inside the home. But that American Dream is out of reach for too many, even here in the Hudson Valley. As Town Clerk in the Town of Clarkstown, I hear from residents everyday about the high-cost of living here in the Hudson Valley. Ever increasing taxes are driving residents, particularly seniors, from their homes; burdensome regulations are making it hard for small businesses to survive, let alone thrive.
With the COVID-19 crisis, things have only gotten worse. People have been furloughed or laid off and small businesses forced to shutter. Meanwhile, it seems like the rich are only getting richer, with millionaires and billionaires abusing the system and loopholes.
When I’m in Albany, I’m going to fight to ensure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share. That’s why I support a new millionaires tax, it’s why I support overhauling our property tax assessments – where suburban homeowners are paying higher taxes than luxury high-rises in Manhattan; and it’s why I support new taxes on big business, giving small businesses the break they deserve.
New York State and the country desperately need criminal justice reform. We, as a state, took real concrete steps last year with the reforms the legislature passed. Unfortunately, these reforms were passed in typical Albany fashion – with little debate, rammed through as part of the budget, and without the input of stakeholders like police, prosecutors, judges, public defenders and reform advocates.
Another problem, and another example of Albany dysfunction, is that these reforms came with numerous mandates on local government without any funding. As Town Clerk, I deal with unfunded mandates every day. It’s just Albany passing on the cost to local governments, with local property taxpayers forced to pay in the end.
And for all the reforms that were passed, work still remains. We need communities invested in their police departments, and vice versa. It’s why I support efforts to make our justice system more reflective of the communities they serve – that means police departments and District Attorneys offices that look like the communities they serve, that means more ethnic and gender diversity.
We need to look at ways to have police officers and other members of our criminal justice system live in the communities they serve. Whether it’s strengthening residency requirements or offering incentives, communities are better off when their police officers are also their neighbors. I will work hand in hand with local governments to make that happen.
Marijauana legalization is long overdue. If the current Legislature doesn’t do it, I will be part of a coalition that will. We can protect our youth while no longer ignoring reality, all while providing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and allowing law enforcement to focus on real problems.
In Rockland and Westchester, the Hudson River is a big part of our region’s identity. It’s incumbent upon leadership, both state and local, to protect the river. That means holding polluters accountable; that means utilizing new technologies to reduce waste runoff into the river and its tributaries.
Protecting open spaces from irresponsible development is important. What’s more important is having a real plan and vision for those open spaces. Instead of piece-meal land purchases, we need a concerted effort to purchase contiguous lots, parcels of land that border each other.
When it comes to public utilities, we need to ensure that we have the right people on the Public Service Commission, not just a rubber stamp for rate increases. When utility companies ask for rate increases, the questions should be, “Is this money going to be spent on infrastructure improvements? Will it be spent on raises for rank and file employees who are out in the field? Or is this raise to cover expenses of failed projects like desalination or raises for high-ranking executives?” These are public utilities. And the public has a right to know how the monies from rate increases are spent.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, we’re going to need to rebuild our economy. An important step in restoring our prosperity is to rebuild our infrastructure. Making sure we have the roads, bridges, and tunnels to move forward is critical – these are good paying jobs for work that’s been ignored for too long. We can modernize our infrastructure, while providing improved economic opportunity to all.
Given the realities of social distancing, we need to dramatically increase the amount of trains available to our region’s commuters to reduce congestion. Trains with routes that people will actually use. I will fight to ensure the Hudson Valley gets the MTA resources our taxes pay for and we deserve. For too long, we’ve seen service cuts and delays. This needs to change immediately.