A veteran assemblyman and a newcomer will vie for the North Shore’s District 15 assembly seat on Nov. 3. Incumbent Michael Montesano, a Republican from Glen Head, has spent the last decade representing in the district in the State Assembly. Joseph Sackman, a Democrat from Hicksville, is running for a seat for the first time.
The Herald Gazette asked both candidates about how they plan to help the North Shore community and its residents.
Herald Gazette: What can you do at a state level to help facilitate an economic recovery after Covid-19 on the North Shore?
Michael Montesano: I think it’s important that, on the state level, we assess what the issues are because they vary a little bit by the size of businesses and by the size of not-for-profit organizations that function on the North Shore with the damages they sustained. Then, we should try to put together an economic plan because we’re going to have to address this not only by regions, but we’re also going to have to drill down a little bit more with specific counties and towns within those counties because everybody’s having a different experience. It could be tax relief, financial assistance or relieving some of these businesses and not-for-profits from regulations or common law that makes it more expensive or restrictive for them to operate.
Joseph Sackman: One of the things I’ve been exploring is the public bank. North Dakota has had a state bank for over 100 years and it has stabilized their economy, especially in times of crisis. During the pandemic, they went out to all their small business and helped them apply for payroll protection. A public bank’s mission is to serve the people, not shareholders. We can give small businesses loans at a low interest rate, and when they pay it back, that revenue goes back into our economy. It would be wise to start off with municipalities which would have an advisory board of bankers, and we would also want to have input from the community.
Herald Gazette: In regard to Covid-19, what actions can you take to be sure that New Yorkers, especially those living in the North Shore, are being protected? Would you support fines for those who continue to have large gatherings, do not wear masks and will not social distance?
MM: I think there are enough guidelines in place and people have been very compliant for the most part. I think we’ve done a phenomenal job here on Long Island especially. We have to be cognizant of the schools because of their large populations. I don’t think we’re ready for large social gatherings, so we have to keep doing what we’re doing to make sure we are prepared for a second round.
People respond to fines in every spectrum, as some don’t take it seriously until they have a financial responsibility for their conduct. Now that the weather is getting cooler, there is going to be an uptick of people doing things indoors. We’re going to see a change in behavior, but I think we have enough in places to address it. I don’t think we should start fining people because they have their relatives over for dinner.
JS: I always find that communication and education are probably the best avenues for people to follow through with something like this. When you’re going to be communicating, whether it’s going to be a mailer or town hall, then you need to also cater to individuals who don’t speak English. There should be information in multiple languages so everybody gets it. As long as there’s funding, I can send the information and reach out to community organizations to make sure we’re all on the same page.
If businesses aren’t following Covid-19 guidelines, they’re hurting their customers. I think we are still seeing a lot of social gatherings where people aren’t following guidelines. I don’t want to fine people for something like this. In parks, we can have use signage and have rangers make an effort to enforce masks. I think it’s worth looking into other countries who have dealt with something like this before and see what has worked for them.
Herald Gazette: What more can be done to establish a public water authority? If one is established, how do you plan to help usher the ratepayers in the water district into it?
MM: I’ve been looking at what State Comptroller Tom DeNapoli did when he was the assemblyman for the Great Neck area and orchestrated the change to public water under the same conditions. We’ve been using that legislation to implement what happens next on the North Shore.
First, a bill has to be passed in the Assembly to create the authority. Then we have to get the community together to elect a board that would run the authority, and then that board will take over the operations. We would also have community meetings to tell the people how it takes place. I think the Senate bill does not need to be amended and should pass through the Assembly as is.
JS: I support public water. When it comes down to it, the district can hook up to an already established public water works or we can take over American Water’s equipment so we don’t have to build a whole new structure.
Our water also has a lot of chemicals in it. I’ve talked to some environmental lawyers and they’re working on remediation, but it could take a hundred years to clean the water entirely with the plans that are out there now. I’d like to find a better way possible, but at the same time, bring clean water into Nassau County. The two options we have there is the Pine Barrens or New York City Water. We have infrastructure we could use to do that.
Herald Gazette: What would your goals be?
MM: We have to address the negative issues that have come out on this bail reform issue. I understand there are some policies that are antiquated in our criminal justice system that needed to be modified. However, this wholesale modification that went on with no public hearings, there was no thought as to what would go on and now we have the mess that we have in front of us. We have people that are out there that are released and immediately reoffend.
We also have to address inequality in our education system, as every child should have access to the same educational opportunities. I don’t think just using property taxes is sustainable anymore, and we could have a dedicated portion of our sales tax that goes to education.
JS: Trying to get us clean water. We’re going to need someone who’s willing to fight to make sure that we continue to keep that in the forefront and not just sweep it under the rug. I would also look more into establishing a public bank because we would need to pass a law on a state level. Healthcare is a big issue for me. I think New York is ready for a single-payer healthcare system that can be the model for what single-payer healthcare can be for the nation. Passing the New York Health Act would establish the commission, which would begin to explore and establish that system for us.