Fisher challenges Ford in the county’s 4th legislative district

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Seven-term County Legislator Denise Ford is being opposed by fellow Long Beach resident Jane Smith Fisher in the Nassau County 4th legislative district. The district encompasses Long Beach, Lido Beach, Atlantic Beach, East Atlantic Beach, Point Lookout and Island Park, and parts of East Rockaway, Oceanside, Woodmere, Lawrence and Cedarhurst. 

The Herald asked the candidates four questions to give voters an opportunity to understand the candidates’ views on issues that impact the constituents.

Herald: How would you help attack what is considered an opioid epidemic in Nassau County?

Denise Ford: We must continue working with state, federal and local police to aggressively combat the use and sales of these drugs. We have already arrested more than 200 drug dealers and taken large quantities of drugs off the streets.

As many drug users have mental health problems, I support the creation of an inpatient rehab clinic at Nassau University Medical Center. I also support the proposal by Republican County Executive candidate Jack Martins that victims of an opioid overdose be held for observation for 72 hours.

We need to educate the public as to how to recognize signs of addiction and to report suspicious activity. I had attended many RIP Long Beach meetings where we met with recovering addicts and family members to discuss addiction. While health classes are focusing on this issue, I would like the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program to be presented once again to our elementary students. I felt this was an effective program and could help. 

Jane Smith Fisher: The opioid epidemic in Nassau County has so many components that it’s difficult to discuss just one or two in a short space. We need to always work on school programs, including in-school, after-school, counselor and teacher development, to name a few.

We need to continue work on parent education and involvement and community outreach. The criminal justice system needs to be reformed on every level. We definitely need more affordable, comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehab options.

However, there’s one area that I don’t believe gets the focus and resources it deserves. While there are some options for treatment, depending on family resources and insurance, there is a dearth of options for recovering addicts, once they leave an inpatient rehab facility.

I raised my son in Oceanside and I’m still connected with the community. Last year, one of the three young people from Oceanside that died from a drug overdose did so the day after he returned from a halfway house. From what I’ve learned from professionals, parents and young people that have been affected by this epidemic, there aren’t many halfway or sober homes in Nassau or Suffolk counties that are free from drugs.

And what happens to these young people after they return home from one of these facilities or live on their own? As a legislator I will spend time visiting sober homes to find out what’s going on and how the government can help. I will learn more about outreach to recovering addicts. I will look for government, nonprofit and community-based resources, at every level. The legislator position is listed as part-time, but it will be my only job.

H: What would you do to help push along the Sandy-related community reconstruction projects?

Ford: I have met with representatives from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to discuss the various projects within my district and to find out where they are in the process. I have also met with Nassau County Department of Public Works to get an update on the projects and have joined in hosting a public forum in the respective neighborhoods.

As these projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, protocols have to be followed. I would follow the timeline to make sure all targets are met and work to try to get the more critical ones expedited.

Fisher: I will aggressively advocate for assistance and partner with city officials in Long Beach and county officials, to constructively accomplish our goals.

H: What would you do to help ensure that the possible redevelopment of the Woodmere Club is done to maintain or possibly improve your constituents' quality of life?

Ford: First of all, I am not in favor of the golf course being developed but if it is, we must look at the impact of traffic especially as Broadway is already a very congested roadway. There should be a minimum number of homes, which can be located on large parcels of land.

By requiring a smart approach to developing this area, we can control the impact on traffic and the school district. Homes can be built green that would reduce the amount of water being used. In order to protect the residents, we need to get input from the community. Personally, I think the best solution is to keep it a golf course.

Fisher: After researching this issue and speaking to members of the community, I’m not certain the quality of life can be maintained, no less improved by the redevelopment of this property.

I suppose there could eventually be tax revenue and I’m willing to evaluate all final proposals, however, there would be such enormous costs related to infrastructure and environmental protection that I don’t see when or if that additional revenue would become a reality.

There are so many concerns related to this redevelopment. The traffic issues, not only related to the building of the homes, which would be considerable, but also putting so many more vehicles on already congested streets, once the homes are built.

This would create even worse traffic problems then exist now. And the environmental concerns are substantial. We just witnessed what happened in Houston, because of overdevelopment. This is already a flood-prone zone. There are also other environmental issues, related to wildlife, that need to be discussed.

We also need to consider a neighborhood of residents that have lived in the area for many years. There doesn’t seem to be any interest from the community to add hundreds of new homes to their neighborhood.

H: What qualifies you to be re-elected?

Ford: I am running because I believe that I have served my district well. I listen to them and work on the issues brought before me. I have been able to work with all levels of government as well as with those across the aisle. I have helped get road projects in my district and have provided funding for trees, movie nights and ambulances to name a few.

I have fought against overdevelopment and a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) that was too excessive and would have impacted the taxes on the residents in the area where the development is to be. I supported and pushed for the upgrade to the sewage treatment plant.  

H: What qualifies you to be elected?

Fisher: With experience as an educator, small business owner, author and parent, I have consistently shown the ability to get things done. My undergraduate degree, from New York University, is in management and organizational behavior. My graduate degree, from Adelphi, is in Elementary Education.

I have spent much of my career working in communities, as a business owner of a popular birthday party and activity center in Island Park, as the creator of a children’s graphic novel series that’s still used in classrooms across the country, as a public school teacher and my years working with the Girl Scouts.

I also relate to so many of the concerns facing my constituents. I raised my son entirely on my own since he was 3. His father and all of his grandparents had died. I only had a brother and sister left and they lived out of town. I learned to navigate systems and had a wonderful relationship with the Oceanside public schools. Together we worked hard to give a chance to a boy who had many odds against him. My son graduated from the University of Maryland.

I currently work for the Nassau County Civil Service Commission. I didn’t know anyone in the government. I got my job by taking a test. Because of my position, I see the problems — of crony contracts and patronage jobs, not to mention inefficiencies — in Nassau County government up close and have ideas of how things can be changed. This will be a full-time job for me.