New York State Assembly candidates, incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick and Jason Zove, participated in a candidates forum at the Commack Public Library Tuesday night. Sitting side by side, the candidates gave an opening statement and answered questions from the audience.
Seven questions came from the audience with the eighth and last question coming from Commack Community Association President Bruce Ettenberg. After their opening statements the candidates took questions and were allowed as much time as they wanted to give their response.
Members of the audience wanted to know about the heroin epidemic, Common Core, early voting, family law and the courts, PSEG and identity theft.
The heroin epidemic was the number one concern for the audience garnering three questions The issue was first raised by Rev. Walker from the Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The Reverend questioned what can be done about this problem that is affecting teens that have every material blessing?
Both candidates spoke about A9943a legislation that recently passed in NYS which took some control for treatment away from insurance companies and gave more authority to health care providers. Both supported its passage, Fitzpatrick acknowledged being a late sign-on to the legislation, but felt that he was doing his fiduciary responsibility by looking for answers about the cost of the program which he never received. He said he took a “leap of faith” and supported the bill because the issue was so important. Zove believes that the legislation does not go far enough. He mentioned more education and more narcotic officers as possible solutions. He wants to create more outlets for opiate disposal and make the public more aware of drug disposal locations. Audience members were very passionate and spoke about pharmaceutical companies, television marketing and young people. The last question of the night came from Commack Community Association President Bruce Ettenberg, who noted that with the 2 percent cap, there was no room in school budgets for additional drug prevention programs. Would the candidates support funding programs with money outside the school budget?
Fitzpatrick used this opportunity to express his support for the tax cap. He spoke about his opposition to unfunded mandates and his proposed legislation to change the Triborough Amendment (labor law allowing for step increases to continue without a contract). He lashed out at the governor for allowing gambling in the state and for the 1000 “video crack” gambling terminals Suffolk County will be receiving. Zove pointed out that Fitzpatrick’s response was not about heroin and that over the next 42 days there would be opportunities to discuss his (Fitzpatrick’s) proposal. He supported the idea of funding programs (offered through the schools) with other sources of revenue with the caveat that it would not devastate another necessary program. Zove said he would support it 100 percent. “We need to go after the drug problem 24 hours a day, during the school day and after the school day.”
A question about PSEG’s metering system seemed to take both candidates by surprise. According to the questioner the metering system uses military grade microwave technology to send information about customer use back to PSEG. Without an independent study done on health issues regarding the use of this technology in homes, the questioner rejected the metering system and was told there would be an opt out fee. Both candidates seemed stunned and rejected the idea of an opt out fee. Zove pointed to his support for a Republican proposal to introduce competition into energy/electric generation.
The candidates agreed on a number of issues. There are stark differences that can be seen in their approach to problems. Fitzpatrick’s opening statement was about a state that is ranked 50th in business climate. He focuses laser like on fiduciary responsibility when evaluating programs including those that address quality of life issues. Zove’s opening statement was about bringing tax dollars back to the community, it was about finding solutions to high energy bills, heroin and quality schools.