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Editorial / Op Ed

 

 

 


Monday
Sep102018

Editorial - Judicial Process Is Bad But A Republican On Democrat Line Is No Answer

I had hoped to give a thumbs up to the women who have decided to take on the very political judicial nominee process. Dare I say it’s about time. There is no time like the present to change the back-room deal making cross-endorsement system that allows political chairpersons to horse trade endorsements that offer little or no benefit to the public.

Unless… what you get is worse than what you are giving up. 

Democrats going to the polls to vote in the Democratic primary Thursday, September 13 will have a choice of voting for a Democrat or a Republican for Suffolk County Surrogate Court Judge to represent Democrats on their line in the November 6th election.

Newsday’s Editorial Board calls the Surrogate Court Judge position “ the mother lode of patronage.” The surrogate judge assigns attorneys legal work including handling wills and guardianships. Billing for these services can be lucrative.

Under the guise of cleaning up the judicial nominating process Republican Tara Scully solicited signatures and will challenge Democrat Theresa Whelan for the Democratic line on the ballot.  

Two reasons for not supporting this move are: It will restrict voter choice and secondly changing the selection process does not come from judges, it comes from the New York State Legislature. So a vote for Ms. Scully on the Democratic line will do nothing to rectify the process.

If Scully wins she will hold both Republican and Democat lines essentially wiping out voter choice. There is an old saying that goes if someone says it’s not about the money know that it’s about the money. In Scully’s case the mantra that it is not about the judgeship it’s about corrupt process, doesn’t withstand the smell test. The usurpation of the Democratic line by a Republican offers November 6th voters no choice and no remediation of the faulty process and allows Ms. Scully an uncontested path to the judgeship.

Democrats, like Republicans and all Suffolk County voters will have the opportunity to vote for Ms. Scully on November 6th. A vote for a Republican on the Democrat’s line is not a vote to change a bad process, rather it is a vote for a Republican on the Democratic line limiting voter options and contributing to voter disgust.

Pat Biancaniello

 

 

Thursday
Sep062018

Op-Ed Republican Running A Democratic Primary Is Hardly A Teaching Moment

By Elaine Turley

Surrogate Court candidate and Republican Tara Scully is asking Democrats to vote for her in the Democratic primary and is telling Democrats that she hopes to run on the Democratic and Republican Party lines to teach the Democratic Party not to make deals for cross endorsements.  Ms. Scully apparently objected to the candidate chosen by the Democratic and Conservative Parties to run for Suffolk County Surrogate because she agreed with Newsday that judicial candidates being endorsed by more than one political party deprives voters of a choice of candidates.  

If Tara Scully wins the Democratic Party primary she will run on the Democratic and Republican Party lines – thus depriving voters of the choice for Surrogate Court Judge she has said she is running to preserve.

Tara Scully herself accepted the cross endorsements of the Independence Party and the Reform Party when she ran for District Court Judge in 2015 and if she had received the Conservative Party endorsement she would not have lost her bid by a mere 173 votes.  Voters could vote for Ms. Scully on any of three party lines in 2015 and for her opponent on any of two party lines.  It seems that voters do have a choice for judge even with cross endorsements – but they did not choose Tara Scully.

Ms. Scully told Newsday that her plan and motivation for running is to change the New York law that provides for elected party delegates to select Supreme Court judges to a law that provides for electing judges in primary elections.  But Ms. Scully has posted on her website an article from the newspaper that endorsed her acknowledging that she has no power to make this change as judge since only the New York legislature can change this process.  Tara Scully speaking of her plan to “change the way we select judges in this state” and “to change the political climate” in the county gives voters the false impression that her being elected Surrogate Court Judge will allow her to implement her plan when she must in fact work in the legislature to do so.  But Ms. Scully is not campaigning to be elected to the legislature where she can make that change and she never has.

Tara Scully, an attorney, does not mention on her website that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld New York’s method for choosing Supreme Court judges in a decision that opines that those complaining of this method “complain not of the state law, but of the voters’ (and their elected delegates’) preference for the choices of their party leadership.”  New York State Bd. Of Elections v. Lopez Torres, 552 U.S. 196(2008).  The Court notes that the “New York Legislature remain opposed to the primary (as a means of selecting judicial candidates), for the same reason their predecessors abolished it 86 years ago; because it leaves judicial selection to voters uninformed about judicial qualifications, and places a high premium upon the ability to raise money.”  The potential for large sums of money that must be raised to wage primary campaigns corrupting the judicial system disturbs not only the U.S. Supreme Court, but also at least one judicial selection task force in New York that recommends against this system of selecting judicial candidates. The Judicial Task Force of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in December 2006 noted, “The need to raise large sums of money in order to compete independently and effectively for a nomination for Supreme Court Justice is profoundly disconcerting. …The primary targets of those fundraising efforts are the attorneys and law firms that appear or could appear before them.  The specter of sitting judges actively and aggressively soliciting large quantities of money for those who will or may appear before them is acid that corrodes public confidence in the independence and integrity of the State judiciary.”  Of course another concern for those attorneys who might appear before a judge waging an aggressive primary campaign is that opposing such candidate could be held against them in the future.

Ms. Scully’s website consists of multiple pages of Newsday editorials railing against the Democratic Party, political party leaders, and cross endorsement of judicial candidates which have been upheld and supported by the U.S. Supreme Court and the NY legislature.  The postings make political attacks against judicial candidates, not because the candidates are unqualified, but because of the men to whom they are married and the party leaders who selected them as candidates.  One would believe from Ms. Scully’s website that she is actually running against Democratic Party chairman Rich Schaffer and the spouses of qualified women who have served honorably in the judiciary and who are respected by the legal community of Suffolk County. 

Ms. Scully’s website includes in bold print, “Tara A. Scully’s candidacy would launch a wrecking ball at the plans of Democratic Party county leader Rich Schaffer….” and continues, “I am proud to step forward to offer voters an alternative to the political deal-making that has made it almost impossible for independent qualified candidates to become judges in Suffolk County.”

Tara Scully’s campaign for Surrogate Court Judge is a prime example of why courts and legal analysts have opined that judicial nominations should be made by party conventions or appointments rather than primary elections.  A judicial campaign is not the proper forum for aggressive attacks or for legislative advocacy.  Ms. Scully should know better.  

Ms. Turley is an attorney who lives in Smithtown. She is the former chairperson of the Smithtown Democratic Committee. 

Sunday
Sep022018

Op Ed - Israel's Unwavering Friends In America

Israel’s Unwavering Friends in America

By Perry Gershon

For decades, Democratic Party support for Israel was never questioned.  But recently, the GOP has taken up the pro-Israel cause, offering blind support while ignoring certain Israeli actions criticized by prior American governments.  Simultaneously, many Democrats have been critical of Israeli policy, even to the level of questioning the long-term bond between our countries. There is an inaccurate, but perhaps growing, perception that the Republicans are better for Israel than we are. 

As a Democratic candidate for the House in NY-1, I affirm traditional Democratic Party principles and stand in solidarity with Israel as our sole true democratic friend in the Middle East. The Democrats’ support for the Jewish State dates back to Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, and has not wavered in the 70 years since.  While Democrats are known for their “big tent” and diverse views, there are certain issues shared by all wings of the Party. Support for Israel must remain one of them.

There cannot be a wedge between Jewish American voters and our Party, and it is imperative that we as Democrats stay true to our basic principles.  As your future NY-1 congressman, I pledge to hold to the following ideals that should be representative of us all:

 

  • Israel is our strongest ally in the region. The US must remain committed to Israel’s security and ability to defend itself. This includes the maintenance of secure and defendable borders for the Jewish state.
  • Americans must unite in opposition to the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) Movement. Despite claims to the contrary by its advocates, BDS is no more than a statement of anti-Semitism under a 21st century guise.
  • Hamas is primarily responsible for the current border violence in Gaza. We must unite in absolute condemnation of Hamas, which is a terrorist organization. The Hamas-initiated rocket fire from Gaza must halt.  If true peace is to be achieved in Gaza, either Hamas must abandon its violent ways and accept publicly the legitimacy of the State of Israel, or it must relax its iron-hand control of Gaza and let a new governing entity take control.
  • The United States and Israel must remain committed to a true two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Without a two-state solution, Israel will lose either its Jewish identity or its democratic identity, neither of which is acceptable. If there is no entity to negotiate peace for the Palestinians, the process must wait until such entity surfaces.

None of this is new or groundbreaking, nor should it even be controversial. These are democratic principles, and as a Democrat, I have a strong personal commitment to them. 

Many may try to confuse voters by suggesting that Democrats who criticize individual policies championed by a particular coalition of the Israeli government do not support Israel. This is a specious claim. As in America, Israeli governments change. Neither Democrats who criticize Trump, nor Republicans who criticized Obama are unpatriotic, much less haters of America. Americans have criticized many of our allies’ policies for years.  Why would a different standard be applied to Israel?  

My support for Israel is rock solid. The Democratic Party’s support for Israel remains unwavering, and those within the Party who question such support are misguided and unrepresentative. I am proudly running for Congress in NY-1 as a Democrat, confident that the Democratic Party was, is, and always will be, a true friend of Israel.

 Perry Gershon is the Democratic Nominee for the House of Representatives, NY-1

Monday
Jul302018

Op Ed - Look At RAVE Carefully Details Matter

By Robert Trotta, Suffolk County Legislator 13th LD

As a former Suffolk County Detective, member of the FBI Gang Task Force and the husband of a kindergarten teacher, school safety is of the utmost importance to me. We all want to do everything possible to protect our children in school and elsewhere, but the steps we take in pursuit of that critical goal must provide a real, significant, effective means of protection, not simply be feel-good measures or public relations stunts that detract from our true mission.

County Executive Bellone recently signed legislation to borrow $2 million to cover the licensing of the Rave Panic Button for public and private schools across the county. The smartphone-based application alerts authorities in the event of an active shooter or emergency situation.  I guess that sounds okay and makes for a good press release and photo op, but is it really the best way to spend significant taxpayer dollars and protect our children? After all, given the rate at which technology is evolving, such an application could be obsolete within a year or two yet our residents will be paying for it for a decade or more.

Let’s take a look at what the $2 million bought…here is a disclaimer from the Rave website: “The services do not replace dialing 9-1-1 in the event you require immediate assistance. The services must not be relied upon to provide emergency response services. Such emergency response services can only be accessed by placing a direct call to 9-1-1.” Please tell me the county didn’t just spend $2 million for 9-1-1 speed dial. Also troubling is the fact that RAVE considers the personal data of its users to be a “business asset” that may be transferred or shared with other parties in the event of any acquisition, merger, reorganization, etc. Given the volatile nature of the IT industry, who knows who will ultimately have access to the personal information of teachers, school administrators and employees?

The tragic shootings that have taken place in schools across the country have understandably prompted the call for government action. We do need to act. However, that action must make sense and serve the best interest of our children and all our residents. It cannot be action simply for the sake of saying we did something and we cannot allow on our fears to be used  for a company’s  financial gain. The “another tool in the toolbox” approach can do more harm than good if that tool is ineffective or confusing or causes unnecessary delays or other unintended consequences.  The steps that elected officials take must be responsible ones, driven by public safety not public relations. Let’s not forget that Bellone was the same guy who gave us and stood by  Chief Burke who together dismantled the FBI Gang Task Force and allowed MS-13 to wreak havoc in Suffolk County. Of course, as you may know, Burke  is now an inmate in federal prison.   As a side note  Intralogic the company that represents Wave on Long Island donated over $10,000.00 dollars to Bellone and Suffolk Democrats . Starting to get the picture?

Robert Trotta, Suffolk County Legislator 13th LD

Friday
Jun292018

Editorial - Getting Ejected At Zeldin Kick-Off

 

 

I am at a loss for words. Last night I was ejected from the Lee Zeldin kick-off rally, which I WAS INVITED TO, without cause. Yes, I was invited to attend the rally by the Zeldin Campaign and was credentialed by the Zeldin Campaign.  Upon arrival I was told to go anywhere I wanted to take photos, again by the Zeldin campaign. I stood in the same spot, with my credentials plainly in sight, for roughly an hour and a half before, out of the blue, I was told to leave…  without an explanation. I was forced to climb over a rope to get to the path leading to a door (one woman sneered and said “bye bye” as I walked past).  Once out the door and in a back yard area, I was mocked by a group of people. A man upset that I was taking photos smacked my camera and I was told by security to leave the Elks Club premises. All while I was wearing the press badge supplied by the Zeldin campaign and telling everyone I was an invited press person.

 

I am confident that my behavior was professional. This was not a ‘question and answer’ press event.  The press was there as observers.  I took photos, and for approximately one and a half hours I listened to guest speakers talk about Lee Zeldin and their impression of his work ethic, his belief in America and his relationship with Donald Trump. This was a rally for supporters meant to energize, create positive thoughts and a “can do” attitude about this candidate.

 

Here’s what the speakers didn’t say, and you should now know about Lee Zeldin. He, through his staff, will discriminate, try to embarrass, and arbitrarily have the invited press removed without benefit of an explanation and without cause. Another thing the speakers didn’t mention about Lee Zeldin was that his love of country falls short of the 1st Amendment rights of free speech or free press. Was the Press being invited to cover his event and then being ejected, (David Ambro of The Smithtown News was also ejected), for the purpose of showing his disregard for the work journalists do?  Was it intended as a preemptive strike against future work? This behavior was an attempt to taint the belief in journalist objectivity - after all, he can say that he had to have the Press ejected. Imagine a news article written about Lee Zeldin now…  imagine how the story is perceived by someone who learns that the writer was thrown out of his kick-off rally. Will the writer be seen as a fair source of information?

These are challenging times. Elected officials are taking unique steps to quiet the voices of those who challenge or question them. For our democracy to flourish a strong press is necessary. I will continue to do all I can to maintain a high ethical standard and I call on you to push back on abuses like this.

Pat Biancaniello and this is Smithtown Matters

Wednesday
Jun202018

Op Ed- Zeldin's Op Ed On Prescription Drug Cost Is Wrong

By Perry Gershon

The United States is home to some of the world’s best pharmaceutical research and doctors; nevertheless, the world’s richest and most powerful country has worse medical outcomes and higher drug costs than the rest of the developed world. The United States should be a leader in affordable health care, not drug addiction. Something is deeply wrong when American patients scream in anguish over the ever-rising cost of prescription drugs. When our patients are forced to take only half the prescribed number of pills for an ailment because they can’t afford their medication, and when they suffer from higher and higher rates of drug abuse, we need to act to cure our broken prescription drug system and we need to act now!

I come from a medical family. My mother was a lead researcher in the development of the chickenpox vaccine, which improved the quality of life for millions of Americans. My father has done ground-breaking research discovering how the nervous system of the gut (“the second brain”) controls the behavior of the bowel. My mother’s dad was a Colonel in the US Army Medical Corps who participated in the liberation of Dachau. I grew up around practitioners and doctors who would do anything for their patients. Trust me when I say that even though the Affordable Care Act was a great first step, it is not enough. America needs Medicare for All to improve the American healthcare delivery system and curb the excessive costs of prescription drugs once and for all.

Republicans like Lee Zeldin want you to believe that buying prescription drugs could be like buying a shirt or a television set. The problem with this simplistic analogy is that while consumers of shirts or television sets have a choice, sick patients do not. One can skip the purchase of another shirt or television set, shop around for a discount, or bargain with the seller. Sick patients have none of the options; they need medical care and they often need it immediately. One can get another opinion, but one cannot ask people to search for the cheapest brain surgeon. Sick patients are free neither to choose their care nor to skip it. Delays in treatment and avoidance of preventive care lead to higher costs in the end. These delays are a major reason that that American healthcare costs so much in aggregate. Too many people defer preventative healthcare and resort to emergency rooms (where costs are multiplied) for treatment when they are in extremis. The alternative is not a cheap neurosurgeon or a discounted heart valve, but pain and suffering, or even death. This lack of effective choice opens the door for exploitation, providing an opportunity for people like Martin Shkreli to gouge patients for life-saving HIV treatments for HIV. It makes it possible for unscrupulous companies like NextSource to raise the price of its life-extending cancer drug Lomustine by 1400%. Pharmaceutical companies charge this much because they can. They know, unlike other businesses, that their customers are at their mercy, and fundamentally cannot say no.

The misleading assertion that deregulation of pharmaceutical companies will not lead to price-gouging uses the same logic that led to the assertion that deregulation of banks would not lead to fraud and speculation. Theft is controlled by law and regulation, not by asserting that thieves will not steal if only they could be deregulated. It is not only wrong—it is an example of how willfully complicit Republicans are in corporations putting profits above people. Corporations exist to maximize profit. Patients, who have no ability to shop around for medical care, are required to pay what private corporations charge and, as a result, are typically overcharged for health care. Deregulation cannot change behavior. It is inherent in the business model. 

Medicare for All is the best way to correct this imbalance and to ensure that patients get a fair price on their prescriptions. In his Op-Ed, Lee Zeldin claims that “doctors, often small practitioners who lack the market power to bargain effectively,” enable pharmaceutical companies to overcharge. Zeldin implies that the government leaves the negotiating to people without marketing power because the government is incompetent, negligent or mean. In fact, the Republicans pushed through a prohibition that forbids the Government from using its great purchasing power to negotiate favorable drug prices. This Republican-passed prohibition accounts for why drugs are cheaper in Canada than in the USA. Zeldin destroys his own argument. He illustrates the importance of governmental action. Reducing regulations has not and will not lower costs; it may make drugs less safe, but not less expensive. I can think of no better argument for Medicare for All. Medicare for All will allow patients to maximize their market power and enable all 325 million Americans to bargain collectively to get the best prices for their prescription drugs. Medicare for All will ensure that pharmaceutical companies are no longer able to exploit their customers. We must act now, before even the most basic prescriptions are out of reach of all but the wealthiest Americans. 

Perry Gershon is a businessman and entrepreneur who is running for elected office to represent the people residing in New York’s First Congressional District. Mr. Gershon is a candidate in a Democratic primary on June 26.

 

Monday
Jun182018

Op Ed- Congressman Zeldin Lowering Cost Of Prescription Drugs

Lowering the Burdensome Cost of Needed Prescription Drugs

Part 1 of a 2 Part Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1)

The rising cost of prescription drugs has dealt a crushing blow to the wallets of everyday Americans and put a great strain on the government supported programs some of our country’s most vulnerable populations, our seniors, children, disabled and impoverished communities, rely on.

According to a report by Express Scripts, a prescription benefits company, between 2008 and 2015, name brand drug prices increased by 164%. These price spikes frequently make life-saving medications unaffordable. When it comes to driving down the cost of prescription drugs for those who need it most, we must consider every option.

This Congress, in an effort to keep pace with an ever-changing marketplace and ever-evolving scientific innovation, the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2430) was passed into law to bring lower-cost generic drug alternatives and biosimilars to market faster by increasing competition and lowering drug costs. With an increase in authority and flexibility, this reauthorization streamlines the process for reviewing and approving new treatments and cures for patients, ultimately delivering new and innovative therapies, drugs and devices to patients more quickly.

Under current law, the federal government has the ability to negotiate the prices of the prescription drugs government purchases from manufacturers, but the negotiating authority is insufficient and outdated. Currently, the federal government has the ability to negotiate prices under Medicare, but even when the government can negotiate prices, it is hamstrung by overregulation that ensures it cannot push for the same prices charged throughout the rest of the world. 

Under Medicare Part D, before reimbursing doctors, Medicare adds 6% to the sales price reported by pharmaceutical companies, then forces patients to cover 20% of the total cost. The burden to negotiate for prices is disproportionately left to doctors, often small practitioners who lack the market power to bargain effectively. As a result, Medicare pays significantly more than European countries for the same drugs, passing costs along to taxpayers and patients alike. The drug companies receive a windfall from Medicare’s lack of negotiating ability, reporting profit margins more than double market averages and earning upwards of an additional $50 billion annually in revenue from overcharging consumers. 

So what else can government do to lower the price of prescription drug prices? With some reforms, Medicare Part D could provide the rough outlines of a solution. Within Medicare Part D, private non-profit and for-profit health insurance companies bid to provide prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries and separately negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. The incentive for Part D plan sponsors to negotiate lower prices comes from the fact that they can then reduce their premiums for Medicare beneficiaries and therefore attract more customers. Due to the fact the taxpayer subsidy depends on the bids submitted by plan sponsors, this competition benefits not only Medicare beneficiaries, but taxpayers overall. Medicare Part D should be reformed to provide plans increased flexibility to enhance negotiating power with drug manufacturers and drive down costs for beneficiaries.

Notably, the bid system within Medicare Part D could ensure that cheap and effective generic products reach consumers. By forcing companies to bid for Medicare’s business, the government could promote competition within the marketplace, driving down prices on name-brand products. While depression medication Welbutrin costs, on average, $6,000 per 100 pills, its generic counterpart, Bupropion, costs only $50-$60 for the same quantity. Though name-brand anxiety drug Adivan also costs, on average, $6,000 for 100 pills, an equal supply of Lorazepam costs only $2-$3. The shocking discrepancies in price continue across the board, from asthma medication to EpiPens to blood pressure drugs to cancer treatments. The recent price spike in a 2-pack of EpiPens from around $100 to over $600 epitomizes the monopoly power of the drug companies. The producer of EpiPens could overcharge customers at will, confident that few generic counterparts could compete. Similarly, the price of insulin to treat diabetes tripled within 10 years, the cost of asthma medication increased 6% and the price of Betaseron spiked from $8,000 per year to close to $60,000.

Americans who rely on EpiPens and other drugs in potentially life and death situations have been railroaded with a lifesaving medication at a price they cannot afford and we must work to drive down the increasingly burdensome cost they have been saddled with.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York in Congress where he services on both the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.


Thursday
Apr052018

Op Ed- "Ten Years Is A Long Time Making Choices Based On Flawed Info"

 

By DUWAYNE GREGORY

The addition of a question on the 2020 census relating to citizenship status is chilling in its simplistic attempt to suppress the political influence of Latinos and racially diverse communities by intimidating immigrants and their families.

Allowed to move forward, it will accomplish what it is designed to do: instill fear in immigrant communities across Long Island and reduce response rates among this vulnerable population.

The provocative addition of this question, in a climate of intimidation advanced by the President and his administration, will force immigrants into the shadows and disproportionately impact representation and federal funding for things like Medicaid and infrastructure across the country and specifically on Long Island where Hispanics and Latinos make up an estimated 17% of the population in Suffolk and 15% in Nassau. 

The consequences of under-counting our country’s population, especially in areas like Long Island could create a disadvantage in representation in the House and create a disparity in distribution of the $600 billion plus in federal funding. 

The administration’s argument that it will help with protecting minority voting rights is disingenuous since the government already collects data that can be used to assist with enforcement. In addition, non-citizens are prohibited from voting and there has been no evidence that the fabricated stories that millions of illegals voted in the 2016 election are true. 

Immigrants are however, guaranteed representation in the House and by under-counting them they – along with others in areas where they are under-counted – would lose that representation. 

As of now 16 states and the District of Columbia have filed lawsuits against President Trump and the Department of Commerce, with New York leading the multi-state action to block the citizenship question from being included on the 2020 census. The lawsuit notes that the 2010 census failed to include more than 1.5 million minorities. 

We must not allow the exclusion of a significant portion of this country’s population to go uncounted. As Americans we have an obligation to demand a complete and accurate accounting. Anything less could have far reaching implications that would alter essential information impacting everything from political representation to key demographic data used by business and government and localities in their decision-making. 

Ten years is a long time to be making choices based on flawed information. 

DuWayne Gregory is Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer

Thursday
Mar222018

Op Ed- A Teachable Moment

 

By Duwayne Gregory  

There are times throughout our lives in which we have opportunity to set aside our own personal feelings and authoritative judgment to prove a point. We call those teachable moments. 

It is a time when – as a parent, educator, boss or individual in a place of authority – you can look at a situation objectively, set aside prejudices that might hamper that objectivity, and go along with an idea with which you might not agree, understanding the broader lesson to be learned and illustrating respect for an individual’s need to express him or herself. 

School officials on Long Island had that opportunity on March 14. It was a teachable moment; an opportunity to show students that their feelings, their ideas, their need to express themselves was respected. 

A handful of districts wasted that opportunity by penalizing students for walking out for 17 minutes during their school day to send a message about gun violence and more importantly that they – as our next generation – have had enough following the murder of 17 innocents in Parkland, Florida.

This is not intended as a criticism. There were obviously reasons that those districts, which then suspended students for not following instructions that prohibited them from participating, believed the walkout was not a good idea. Perhaps it was the safety of the students, or the idea that the walkout was not manageable… all real concerns. 

However, many other districts permitted the students to express themselves, instituted measures to ensure their safety and created a manageable environment.

That’s where the trust comes in and the more important message. 

As a country we have experienced difficult times in our history. Certainly the 1960’s was among the most divisive; the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of our leaders. It was a time in which we believed the chasm would not ever be bridged. 

But we overcame. We disagreed, we argued and we expressed ourselves in any way we could – including sometimes violent protests - but we survived and as a result became a stronger - better country.

We are at a crossroads in uncharted territory. Our country is divided by so many issues, not the least of which is gun control. But we are a country that allows diverse positions; we permit discussion and disagreement and sometimes we are terrified that it all may have a devastating impact. But we move on in the hope that it will influence change.

By preventing students from participating in the walkout without penalty, school districts took away the right of students to express themselves in a way in which they saw fit. It was a moment in time…a spontaneous illustration of their anger and frustration with a government that has let them down and they had every right to do what they did. 

Movements such as this should be encouraged, not discouraged. The lessons learned are too vital to dismiss and too important to the growth and understanding of the differences that are part of our great country.  We should all be listening.  

DuWayne Gregory is Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer

Tuesday
Mar062018

Op-Ed A Call For Action On School Gun Violence 

School Superintendents Appeal for Action
By Gary Bixhorn and Lars Clemensen


The murder of 17 students and teachers in the corridors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle is one more episode in a series of violent acts targeting our nation’s youth. Now, Parkland joins Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and dozens of other educational settings as the name of a crime scene, not a school. Our heartbreak increases as the list gets longer and longer. The Parkland tragedy reminds us that an American school shooting has taken place, on average, once per week in 2018, and it is only February.

Addressing this national epidemic demands bold action. Our national response must evolve to be more than just messages of “thoughts and prayers” and hand-wringing about our inability to stop this. The students in Florida want this to be the tipping point; they want this to be the “last mass shooting.” This siren must get our attention. And this issue should be the one to galvanize our elected officials in Washington, state capitals and local communities. By rejecting mass shootings as a “new normal,” the federal government has the chance to seize the grief and the anger of this overwhelming moment and act now. The nation is ready.

New York State passed sensible guns laws in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre in neighboring Connecticut. This bipartisan measure includes many provisions that our national leaders can use as a model. Assault weapons, background checks, ammunition sales, mental health screenings and more, it’s all in there. It wasn’t perfect when it was passed, but through a series of amendments, it’s been improved. We’re certain that critics can identify several concerns about the law, but there are none that can’t be resolved. Take New York State’s SAFE Act and use it as a template for federal action.

The aftermath of a school shooting has become all too predictable. We need a multifaceted solution that addresses all of the issues that the Parkland students are now so eloquently articulating as a result of witnessing the horrific shooting and losing classmates and teachers to gun violence. It is the only way to make significant progress towards addressing this complex matter. We have a state law in place that can be used to initiate the essential national conversation, the SAFE Act, so why not use it? We understand that what we’ve done in New York may be a hard sell elsewhere, but all kids deserve this kind of protection. We do know that nothing will improve if we do nothing, and that is not an option.

We need such changes to be able to assure students, parents and staff that our schools are safe places. Ensuring that our students receive the highest-quality programs and services in a safe, secure environment is the goal of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. It is a goal that is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. A recent survey of school superintendents statewide indicates that more than half of respondents have rising concerns about the needs of our students in non-academic areas, including health, safety and mental health. Our members partner with county, town and village police departments, as well as many other non-law enforcement organizations, understanding that these needs cannot be met without robust cooperation. Only this type of cooperation will enable us to fully address these problems.

To make progress, we need strong national leadership. We need our leaders to break the patterns that have resulted in inaction time and time again. We need them to be brave and do what we have elected them to do – lead. We must demand decency and collaboration by all involved. With civility, the availability of adequate resources and exhaustive planning, we can be successful. This work demands collaboration, compromise, discussion and mutual understanding. To this end, the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association stands ready to help in this effort in any way necessary.

As Americans, we must be capable of more than one thought and one non-negotiable action plan to address this problem. In doing so, we can meet today’s challenges and achieve our goal of providing a safe, secure environment for all students. Our humanity demands it.  

Gary Bixhorn is executive director and Lars Clemensen is president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.