Following the 2010 census, redistricting created a Congressional district that now spans from eastern Queens into western Nassau County. The 5th District includes most of southeast Queens including Far Rockaway and John F. Kennedy International Airport, along with parts of Elmont, Inwood, Valley Stream and Floral Park.
Allan Jennings, a community activist and former New York City council member, lost a four-way Democratic primary to his current opponent Democrat Gregory Meeks in June. But, Jennings received the Republican nomination. Meeks, seeking his eighth term, represented the 6th Congressional District prior to this latest redistricting. Catherine Wark, 58, a Kew Gardens resident, is running on the Libertarian Party line.
Herald: How will you look to serve the Long Island areas of the district?
Meeks: I will serve the Long Island areas the same way I serve the entire district: By helping constituents resolve problems they have with federal programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Veteran’s benefits, and immigration; by supporting legislation that advances the well-being of the district; and by advocating for the district to get its fair share of federal resources. I have already prioritized getting to know the Long Island constituents and allowing them to get to know me. I have begun utilize economic, social, and demographic research to help my office gain an in-depth understanding of the Nassau County parts of the 5th C.D. I want to maintain an ongoing dialogue with constituents and leaders of organizations or institutions working to meet community needs. Where possible I hope to collaborate with my congressional colleagues, other elected official, clergy, community leaders, the business community, unions, educators, and civic activists to advance the interests of the 5th C.D.
Jennings: A major concern for all Long Islanders is the ever-increasing home foreclosure rate. My top priority will be to help this homeowners in the form of a one-time “Life Saving Modification” clause in all new mortgage contracts.
For example: If your house is your primary residence for at least five years, you would be able to modify your mortgage to get a lower rate, if available, and/or extend the term of your mortgage without income or credit checks.
Wark: As a public servant I intend to do just that — serve my constituents. We are not in Washington D.C. to serve special interest groups. We are put in office to serve those that place their trust in us to represent them. One of the most important issues right now, and the greatest danger we face currently, is the dismantling of our Republic and the shredding of our Constitution. Our liberty is hanging by a thread and the encroaching police state is becoming intolerable. Power that belongs to the people and the state is being usurped by Washington. It is critical right now to stop this usurpation of our personal liberties and extortion taking place in D.C. As a freedom loving Libertarian I am committed to defending and upholding our invaluable Constitution and protecting our precious liberty. I sincerely believe in downsizing D.C. and putting the power firmly back in the hands of “We the People” where it belongs.
Herald: Do you support President Obama’s health care reforms?
Meeks: Absolutely. I worked very hard on the Affordable Care Act and was invited by President Obama to attend the signing ceremony for this historic legislation. Obamacare extends coverage to 30 million more Americans. Insurance companies no longer will be able to impose lifetime or monetary limits on policyholders or plan participants, or deny coverage to citizens with a pre-existing medical condition. Children up to 26 years of age can stay on their parents’ plan. ACA closes the “donut hole” in the prescription benefit Medicare provides to seniors. Gender discriminate against women with respect to coverage and access to preventive services is prohibited. The ACA provides subsidies to help small businesses offer health care coverage to their employees. The act is already reducing waste and eliminating overpayments to providers without reducing Medicare or Medicaid benefits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says Obamacare will bend the cost curve downward and extend the life of Medicare through 2024.
Jennings: In general I support the Health Care Act with the exception of the Individual Mandate.
Wark: Absolutely not. Very little “reform” resulted. I have learned an important lesson regarding government “reforms.” Their “reforms” usually have little to do with actual reform and more to do with grabbing more power and control. As a result of Obamacare we ended up in a much worse situation. Genuine reform did not happen. We need to scrap it and start fresh with real reforms that do not violate our constitutional rights!
Herald: What are your thoughts on the flood maps, which went into effect in 2009, that put much of southwest Nassau into the flood zone?
Meeks: Let me say from the outset I don’t see why Valley Stream and surrounding communities are included in FEMA’s flood zone designation. This is not fair and I will work to change it. I plan to get a detailed briefing from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and I want FEMA to provide a similar detailed briefing to southwest Nassau residents. I am also working closely with Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand on a common approach to the concerns our constituents have expressed.
Jennings: FEMA is responsible for the developing flood maps, ranking the risks of communities. I realize that many homeowners are not pleased to be in a high-risk zone, due to the effect it has on their homeowners insurance. As a member of Congress I must do what is responsible and not allow politics to enter into policy decisions.
Wark: I find force to be repugnant to my senses. It is the right of the individual to make their own choices as to whether or not they wish to purchase insurance. There is also something very fishy about putting these areas, never known to experience flood problems before, into a new flood zone. I am highly suspicious of their motives and would like to investigate further their true motives for this.
Herald: What can you do as a congressman to help spur job creation and strengthen the economy in this district?
Meeks: My focus in Congress is on enacting job creating legislation. I’ve supported bills that would create jobs by rebuilding the nation’s schools and infrastructure; that would help cities and states avoid laying off teachers and first responders; and that targets areas where unemployment is highest. I’ve introduced jobs legislation that incentivizes companies to bring jobs back here. With JFK Airport, Aqueduct/Resorts World, Belmont Racetrack, Green Acres Mall, hospitals, a well-developed highway and rail system, extensive waterways, outstanding universities, hospitals, communities, and recreational areas, and a skilled workforce, the 5th C.D. could become a powerful economic engine. These assets have great jobs creating potential. If government, businesses, and communities work together to improve our infrastructure, overcome the foreclosure crisis, upgrade public education, control sprawl, and safeguard the environment, and if we think outside of the box, I believe the sky is the limit for job creation and economic development. My goal is to help facilitate this kind of progress.
Jennings: I will vote to continue the current capital gains tax levels. I will also oppose any new taxes on small business. I will also fight to give tax incentives to corporations that discontinue the practice of out-sourcing jobs to other countries.
Wark: I find small business to be the backbone of society. Overregulation by government has killed many small businesses. I have heard this complaint constantly from family, friends, neighbors and small business owners. The federal government must be stopped from regulating everyone to death. I support an audit of the Federal Reserve. I feel we need to balance the budget, cap the debt, end all bailouts, stop the endless and needless wars that are draining our economy and end the income tax and overtaxation. I would like to get as much money as possible back into the pockets of the people. The government has acted like an irresponsible teenager with their parent’s credit card. The waste in D.C. is staggering. Cutting the government’s reckless spending habits and supply line is the best way to not only help the people and our economy, but stop the rapid expansion of government and its power and control over our lives.