The race for the 19th Assembly District began at the end of August when incumbent Edward Ra announced his bid for a fifth term against William Carr on Aug. 29.
The Herald asked Ra and Carr questions focusing on issues vital to the residents of the 19th A.D., which encompasses West Hempstead, Glen Head and parts of Franklin Square.
Herald: With the nation’s ongoing epidemic of school shootings, how would you improve safety measures if elected?
Ra: I think first we need to realize that a comprehensive approach to making our schools as safe as possible can’t just focus on any one thing. During the past legislative session, the Assembly passed and I supported the creation of “extreme risk protection orders” also known as the “red flag” bill. This would allow parents, police officers, teachers and school administrators to go into court and ask for weapons to be removed from the homes of those that they have reason to suspect might be a danger to themselves or others. While I believe the Senate should act on that bill, the Assembly took no action on a package of school safety measures that was passed in the State Senate. I think there needs to be an approach that recognizes that what works in one district isn’t necessarily what’s best for another school district. The State should provide support for both qualified security personnel and physical plant improvements to allow local districts to adopt solutions that work for their district’s needs and individual school buildings. We should also be looking to increase support for mental health services within our schools.
Carr: As a father of four children, I strongly support common-sense measures to protect our children. While I will defer to our law enforcement professionals on the best measures to protect schools, I would ensure schools in District 19 have funds from Albany to provide the safety measures they need. We need to train our school staff and administrators on how to identify children in need who may exhibit signs of violent behavior and I believe passing laws that allow police to red flag those with mental illness who have weapons, to temporarily remove them and protect our communities is a valuable tool for the police.
Herald: What would you do as Assemblyman for District 19 to address the water rate hikes?
Ra: It has become clear with the situation with New York American Water that our goal must be providing these service areas with a publicly run water operator. In the Sea Cliff service area that means funding a feasibility study that will set us on a path to the Jericho Water District taking over operations of this service area. We also must continue the actions taken in court by the Public Service Commission and the investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the organization’s actions in knowingly providing false information during rate proceedings. Merely providing credits to customers is not sufficient. We should further strengthen oversight and ensure harsh penalties are imposed when a utility engages in such actions.
Carr: As a trustee for more than six years, I am deeply knowledgeable on water issues. We live above our drinking water supply and need to take all necessary measures to protect it. To keep water costs reasonable, we need to get rid of privatized water systems on Long Island and explore ways to consolidate services to safely and cost-effectively provide water. We should look at how other counties, such as Suffolk, provide water via a countywide municipal water authority.
Herald: The opioid epidemic has continued to impact residents in Nassau County. What can be done at the state assembly level to address this issue?
Ra: The opioid epidemic remains a major issue in our region and State. As we widely realize this is not just a criminal issue, but also a public health issue. The stewardship program adopted as part of the recent state budget will raise $100 million for treatment and support but, unfortunately, there was not a similar increase in funding going to fight this crisis. We need to continue to expand the availability of treatment beds and expand on the recently opened recovery center in Suffolk County by providing additional locations in Nassau County where those who have gotten treatment have a place to go in their ongoing recovery. We also should be establishing recovery high schools in New York State. This has been successful in other states in providing a proper environment for students in recovery from a substance abuse disorder. Other initiatives like expanding the availability of Narcan and those who can administer this life-saving treatment have been a positive, but we need to ensure those patients have a place to go and get the treatment they need both in the immediate aftermath of an overdose and into the future.
Carr: We must not treat addiction like a crime. We need to help fund a 24-hour hotline to get those who need help and families who do not know how to help a family member get the immediate help they need. We also need to ensure our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to catch the suppliers of these horrific drugs that devastate lives. As an Assemblyman, I would seek to pass more job training programs for our youth and funding for after-school programs to keep kids out of situations where they can get in trouble.