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Editorial / Op Ed





OpEd- NYC Police Commissioner is Right – We Must Keep 9/11 Fund Permanent 

NYC Police Commissioner is Right – We Must Keep 9/11 Fund Permanent 

By Perry Gershon

Every American should pause, as we approach Memorial Day, to think about first responders we lost and those who stepped up – into a fiery breach for America –on 9/11.  We needed them on that horrible, infamous day; and they need us now.  Let’s not disappoint ourselves or them by forgetting their compassion and heroism, or debt owned through after-the-fact compensation.  That is a moral duty that rests on all of us. 

The 9/11 responders did not ask themselves, when entering those burning buildings, if they would come out alive.  That is not how first responders think.  Many did not.  

They did not ask whether we would remember their families if they did not make it out alive.  And they did not conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess whether life-changing damage to their health would ever be paid for. They just went in.  We owe them everything for doing that. 

Today, we are at a big moment. The 9/11 compensation fund is in free fall, repeatedly leading to 50 percent health benefit cuts, and on a trajectory to producing 70 percent cuts until it is gone.  These heroic families need oxygen, as they needed the real thing that day. 

No wonder, then, that New York City’s Police commissioner made another direct appeal last week to Washington.  He argued that the fund for injured first responders, those who incurred life-changing health impacts “as a result of the terror attacks on 9/11,” needs to be kept solvent.  And he is right. 

May 17th represented Peace Officers Memorial Day.  This remembrance is purposely close to another day on which we remember our Nation’s fallen – Memorial Day.  This is precisely the right time to put aside partisan disagreements, rhetorical clashes and lesser disputes to remember fallen Americans – and those injured in selfless service. 

As the New York City Police commissioner noted, when adding names to the memorial, at One Police Plaza, “These names are a reminder that the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, has not ended for us, for our families or for our great city.”  His words lie heavy on warn spring air:  “We lost so much that day and it’s not over,” adding “They represent something else, too — the very real risk cops face when they put on their uniforms and go to work.”

So, what can Congress and President who calls New York home actually do?  They can make our rapidly disappearing 9/11 compensation fund again real, immediately passing bipartisan legislation to assure that these hurting families –families of those who put it all on the line that sunny day turned black – are properly equipped to face the future. 

As public reports confirm, the fund is nearing insolvency, leading to deep cuts in compensation; it is about “to run out for funding for the sick,” which is what has led to a unified call for Congress and the President to act.  

In a time when agreement seems to be a bad word, when political success seems calibrated by what we are against, maybe this is a moment when we can be – as one Nation under God – for something.  Because this something matters.  

Specifically needed is a firm, timeless commitment to honor the sacrifice of the first responders suffering from 9/11-related ailments.  We need to rally and make an unstinting commitment to assisting them, without reservation or cost-saving at the forefront, the way they made an unreserved, open-ended commitment to us.  

On that day, as on many days since, the law enforcement and first responder community makes an open-ended commitment to our health and safety.  They sign up to do that, the way combat veterans sign up to serve – come what may.  For that reason, we need to be equally unflinching.  

Let’s get the bipartisan congressional bill assuring compensation to 9/11 responders passed – before another month of falling benefits, quiet suffering and unmet obligations passes.  We can do this, and we should do this. 

 Politics has its place.  But love of neighbor, gratitude for unfailing selflessness, and honoring those who honored us creates a binding, unshrinking obligation.  That is what is before us now.  Let’s step into the breach, and make them whole – as whole as life and law allow.  This is the time. 

Perry Gershon is a business leader and national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s first district, he holds a BA from Yale and an MBA from Univ. of California.


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



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


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


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.



Op-Ed The Heroin & Opioid Abuse Epidemic


The Leading Cause of Death: The Heroin & Opioid Abuse Epidemic 

 Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1)

It’s not car accidents. It’s not heart attacks. It’s drug overdoses that are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. As a whole, our nation has been debilitated by the rise of the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, and as heroin and opioids flood the streets of our communities on Long Island and across America, the issue continues to become increasingly personal.

Addiction is a devastating disease that takes hold of our loved ones and impacts everyone around that person. This heartbreaking disease is claiming lives, tearing apart families and destroying our communities. I’ve been to way too many wakes as a Member of Congress where a young man or young woman was being buried due to an overdose. Even one young life lost is too many. No parent should ever have to bury their child. No mother or father should ever experience that pain; it’s a deeply gut wrenching moment that has become all too common.

These are our children, and when it comes to our sons and daughters this couldn’t possibly be any more urgent of a crisis. From law enforcement to local elected officials, medical professionals to members of local community groups, everyone has a role to play in eradicating this devastating epidemic.

In Congress, I’ve dedicated myself to working with those on both sides of the aisle to find solutions and achieve positive results. In 2016, I helped the lead the effort to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law, which provides $8.3 billion in federal funding to help combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic through treatment, education, enforcement and prevention. Furthermore, it provides $3.6 billion to fully fund the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) and maintains robust funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

As a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I have supported over 20 pieces of legislation to provide our communities with the tools and resources we need to increase treatment, recovery, education, enforcement and prevention services. I recently voted for over $747 million more to address the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic and, going forward, I will fight to secure more funding for our communities this year and as we craft next year’s budget. 

In addition to vital funding, I have also made it my priority to provide Long Island with a greater supply of Naloxone, or Narcan, a life saving medication that is safe and easy to administer and is proven to reverse an overdose within minutes. It is also especially important that once an individual is saved by Narcan that they immediately get the help they need or many of these individuals will go right back to using heroin instantly.

Furthermore, we must crack down on the criminals who unlawfully import and distribute increasingly lethal drugs. Drug traffickers manufacture synthetic drugs and continue to alter molecular structures in an effort to thwart United States drug laws. These synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, can be as much as 100 times more powerful than painkillers. That’s why I cosponsor the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act to provide swifter action to stop the unlawful importation and distribution of ever-evolving synthetic drugs and provide law enforcement with the resources they need.

This is a crisis that must be addressed by every level of government, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, and others, and there is not a minute to spare. In Congress, I am committed to doing everything I can to help those grappling with drug addiction and their families. This a life and death issue that could not possibly be more time sensitive.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York and is a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in the House of Representatives, which focuses on finding solutions, spreading awareness and increasing educational efforts.


Op-Ed It's Time For Early Voting In NYS

Op-Ed from the Desk of Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory

In the news conference unveiling his 2018-2019 executive state budget Governor Andrew Cuomo again calls for a plan to initiate early voting in New York State along with same-day voter registration. 

It isn’t the first time he has called upon counties in New York to implement this plan. Unfortunately, his proposal has gone nowhere time and time again. 

It is time for that to change.

Cuomo’s plan would require counties to offer at least one early voting polling location for every 50,000 residents during a 12-day period before Election Day. The polling sites would be open at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends thereby providing multiple opportunities for those unable to accommodate a visit to the polls during their working hours. 

New York is one of only 13 states to lack some form of early voting. In 2016’s Presidential race, some 30 million Americans took advantage of early voting; none of them from New York. In fact, statistics show that with 60.2% of the 231 million eligible voters casting ballots in the 2016 election, an increase compared to the 58.6% in 2012, national turnout was still reduced by approximately 1.5% due to low turnout in three of the four most populous states; California, New York and Texas.

The six highest ranking states in terms of voter turnout, according to a report by Nonprofit VOTE which partners with nonprofits to assist people with participating in voting, all offered same day voting registration.

In addition, unlike voters across the country, residents of New York can only vote ahead of time by absentee ballot if they can offer proof that their profession, business, travel, school work, illness or disability prevents them from getting to the polls.  

The result of all these obstacles is that voter participation in New York is anemic. The antiquated system that exists due to an unwillingness on the part of the state legislature to adopt new procedures is hampering the rights of individuals from all walks of life who want to participate in the election process. 

In addition, counties want assurances that implementing new voting laws – which could cost an estimated $7 million - will not result in another unfunded state mandate and Governor Cuomo needs to provide that commitment. 

The early voting measure, which has been embraced by the state Assembly has unfortunately fallen victim to partisan politics in the state Senate. But modernization of the voting system in New York must be a bi-partisan priority to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. 

Voting is one of our most cherished rights as Americans, yet voter turnout is rarely what we hope it will be. Not everyone can get to the polls on Election Day or take time off from work to vote. 

The Governor’s early voting proposal, will make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process. 

Times have changed, and although some traditions and laws forged in the past rightfully remain in place, others must adapt to changes in societal values, priorities and circumstances. I support the Governor in this endeavor and encourage our state lawmakers to do the same. You should do the same. 

Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory was reelected to a fifth term as Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer at the Legislature’s organizational meeting, held Jan. 2 in Hauppauge. 


Op Ed - Keeping Long Island's Schools Safe And Secure Together

Keeping Long Island’s Schools Safe and Secure Together

By Gary Bixhorn and Lars Clemensen

Events such as the Las Vegas concert and Texas church shootings remind us of the critical role that law enforcement plays in our communities. As school administrators, those events bring back horrific memories of the Newtown tragedy and cause us to reflect on the heightened level of interdependence between our public schools, often the cornerstone of Long Island’s communities, and our police.

This relationship has evolved and intensified over the years due to both legislative requirements and the increased complexity of societal and community issues. The incident that first changed the nature of the relationship occurred in Jefferson County, Colorado, in April 1999, when two Columbine High School students massacred their classmates. Prior to Columbine, interactions between schools and police on Long Island, for the most part, centered on matters such as vandalism, graffiti, the assignment of crossing guards, bomb scares and an occasional drug-related arrest. Schools and the local police responded to incidents in these and similar categories on a “case-by-case” basis. Practices varied from district to district and department to department.

Appropriately, that changed with New York State’s legislative response to Columbine. The Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (SAVE) was passed by the legislature and signed into law on July 24, 2000. The legislation, which has since been amended and supplemented, required schools and school districts to implement a number of measures, but most prominently to develop and maintain safety plans at the building and district levels and to adopt codes of conduct for the maintenance of order in school operations. The intensity and importance of the relationship between the police and schools grew as the stakes were raised, and we worked together to implement SAVE. The unthinkable required school and law enforcement officials to plan for eventualities that seemed impossible just a few months earlier. The problems of the past paled in comparison to the concerns about the future.

Today, the partnership is more important than ever, as both police and schools are called upon to deal with local manifestations of issues of national prominence, the opioid crisis and gang violence. Opioid abuse occurs all around us every day. The epidemic cuts blindly through race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Its consequences impact people of all ages in all communities. In 2016, Long Island suffered 519 opioid-related deaths. Recently, more than 400 educators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement came together at a regional conference sponsored jointly by LI-CAN, the island’s school superintendents’ associations and SCOPE to discuss this issue. 

Gang violence, while far less pervasive, does exist on Long Island. While schools are not a center of gang activity, they are places where young people gather and information is exchanged. As a result, there is a mutual benefit to the partnership between schools and law enforcement because we must address this problem together. The introduction of school resource officers (SRO), uniformed police personnel assigned to certain schools, has facilitated this communication and has been a powerful approach in emphasizing the role of police officer as community leader. The SRO plays a crucial role in our schools – not just by responding to incidents, but in building positive relationships with students, staff and parents. We support a well-structured, thoughtful expansion of this important program. 

Assuring 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. A recent survey of school superintendents statewide indicates that half of respondents have rising concerns about the needs of our students in non-academic areas, including health, safety and mental health. Members of the association partner with county, town and village police departments, and many other non-law enforcement organizations recognize that these needs cannot be met without robust cooperation. Only this type of cooperation will enable us to fully address these problems.  

The key to future success is mutual respect, the availability of adequate resources and exhaustive planning. We’ve come a long way since 2000 and we have much more to do. Together, with the right school district and law enforcement leadership in place, including the new Suffolk County district attorney, Tim Sini, and soon-to-be-named police commissioner, we can meet today’s challenges and achieve our goal of providing a safe, secure environment for all students.

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


Editorial - Thank You For Listening And 12 Angry Men

Going through the channel guide last night I noticed 12 Angry Men (1957) was on TV. The movie is a classic and even though I had seen it before I decided to watch it. As I watched I became more reflective about the world we live in. 12 Angry Men is timeless. A story written in the 1950’s still relevant in 2017.

In 12 Angry Men jurors are asked to examine facts and determine if the defendant, a young poor man living in a slum, is guilty of murdering his father. The facts as laid out by the prosecutor engendered most jurors to render a guilty vote.  One juror, played by Henry Fonda, was not convinced the evidence was enough to convict, he had reasonable doubt. Another juror played by Joseph Sweeny gave Fonda the opportunity to explain why he doubted the defendant committed the murder. 

Although they were all white males, the twelve jurors came from different socio-economic backgrounds and had very different life experiences. Each man’s experience shaped his opinion and led him to look at the facts with a unique perspective. The men had a difficult time understanding why others did not see things the same as they did. There was a lot of anger and posturing in the jury room. In the end what could have ended in a hung jury ended in a not-guilty verdict. Reason, discussion and listening  led to the conclusion that there was not enough information to convict. Whether or not the defendant was innocent was never answered. The verdict was simply, we do not have enough information to declare the defendent guilty.

12 Angry Men is a snapshot of where we are as a nation. We are divided. Personal experience shapes the way we think and how we look at facts. We don’t gather information to educate ourselves as much as we seek to validate positions. We listen superficially not for understanding and we wait for the opportunity to destroy the person who dares to speak a contadicting idea. 

We, like the media we follow, are authorities. No longer do we say I heard, I think, my opinion is; we say everyone knows and we say it’s a fact even when too often it’s not. Alternative facts have become acceptable and quoted and no one seems to want to hear that an alternative fact is nothing more than someone’s spin.

It is time for Americans to understand that we are in the jury room and we will be going nowhere fast if we don’t take time to HEAR what what others are saying. Communication is a give and take endeavor. If we don’t do a better job of listening and understanding what’s at stake, we may just render a death sentence to our future.



Op - Ed Congressman Zeldin - Hurricanes A Wake-Up Call For Insurance Reform

This Year’s Hurricane Season is Another Wake-up Call for Flood Insurance Reform

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

In all corners of our nation, and many areas in between, tens of millions of Americans live near water, and depend upon the natural resources and bounties which it provides. This especially rings true here in NY-1, where the water is an incredibly important part of our life and culture. However, with this blessing comes the need to protect ourselves against flooding, which has the potential to cause incredible damage to our homes and property. A crucial part of this defense is reforming the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is now over $25 billion in debt. This year’s particularly devastating hurricane season further emphasizes the urgent need for reform, incentivizing mitigation, reducing repetitive loss claims, achieving fiscal solvency and actuarially sound rates, and more timely adjudication of claims, among other ideas. In addition, too many of those affected by flooding are uninsured; we must have expanded coverage for those homeowners, which includes opening up the private market to increase options for coverage. As a member of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, I have been working hard to reform this program on a bipartisan basis and reauthorize it for the long term. As a Long Islander, this concern is all the more personal.

In June, along Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D, NY-12), I introduced the bipartisan NFIP Policyholder Protection Act (H.R. 2868) to incentivize mitigation activities. This crucial legislation would result in a credit to policyholders who invest in mitigation, such as elevating their homes, adding porous foundations, or moving boilers to the second floor. Time and time again, I have heard from homeowners across NY-1 that, despite having done the right thing and elevated or otherwise mitigated risks to their homes, they have not received a corresponding drop in their flood insurance premiums. My legislation, which was passed out of the House Financial Services committee on a strong bipartisan vote, will ensure those homeowners receive a credit for their actions, in addition to other great benefits for our district. The advantages of flood insurance reform under this legislation will be tremendous for Suffolk County, and I will be working hard to ensure that this bill is passed and signed into law. 

While homeowners should be encouraged to protect their property, we must also realize that some areas are naturally prone to excessive flooding and result in repetitive claims for flood loss. Too many homeowners are opting to live in high risk areas confident they will receive substantial repeated payouts from NFIP. Paying homeowners over and over and over again for flood damage is the quintessential definition of insanity. When the reality is that repeated flood damage is all but certain, we must reform NFIP so homeowners relocate to safer and more stable locations, including buyouts for willing communities and the prevention of overdevelopment along waterfront communities. Reducing repetitive claims is one of many ways to put NFIP on a path towards fiscal solvency and more actuarially sound rates, which is a top priority of Congress’ bipartisan effort to effectively reform this program.

Expanding flood insurance coverage for more Americans is another vital objective. A large amount of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma did not live in properties covered by flood insurance. The coverage map must be expanded as well as lifting the “non-compete” clause in federal law that severely limits the availability of private flood insurance options. By doing so, we can encourage individuals, families, and business owners to seek appropriate and affordable flood coverage before the next storm, increasing competition and consumer choice while lowering costs.

We must also speed up the timetable for FEMA’s claims processing and better utilize digital technology like GIS to improve the flood mapping process. However, none of these ideas will amount to anything if not actually implemented through a long term reauthorization of the program. NFIP was reauthorized last month, without reforms, as part of a short term punt. The American people deserve immediate action.

Flood insurance is an absolute necessity for millions of Americans, and it is unfortunate that NFIP has been beset with these issues. However, we have a very real chance to make much-needed changes to this program. Increasing mitigation incentives, promoting fiscal solvency and actuarially sound rates, repetitive loss claims reduction, introducing more timely adjudication of claims, and expanding coverage while opening up the private market are all excellent and necessary ideas. Now is the time to make much needed reform. I look forward to pursuing any and all legislative options to make real change a reality.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Financial Services Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.


Editorial - Primary Ends With Vote Republican Party In Fight To The Death Battle

Today Smithtown Republicans get to vote for candidates who will represent them in November’s general election. The primary season is ending, Good riddance.

From the very beginning this contest was more a display of the ugliness of politics than a debate about policy and vision. The spring nominating convention set the tone for the primary. At the convention Republican Chairman Bill Ellis and the executive board willfully discarded three incumbents Councilman McCarthy and Councilwoman Nowick (both successful vote getters) and replaced them with two first time candidates Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann. In what many call a “bait and switch scheme” forty-year incumbent Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was dropped by the Republicans, not for the announced Republican candidate for supervisor John Zollo, who dropped out of the race so that the Republicans could throw their support to Ed Wehrheim. The one incumbent the Republicans endorsed is not a Republican, for town clerk the board endorsed Conservative Vincent Puleo. 

The question people need to ask themselves is why a chairman would undermine an entire slate of successful office holders. The obvious answer is control.

Although Smithtown is considered a Republican town, Supervisor Vecchio has a long history of showing an independent streak, party politics is not his strong suit.  Bill Ellis is the head of the Smithtown Republican Committee and with the title come some perks like submitting names to fill appointments to positions on the planning board, board of zoning appeals (BZA), conservation board, etc. Not all of the names Ellis put forth were Republicans, naming a Conservative increases the likelyhood of cross endorsements during elections. Ellis’ job as chairperson is to keep the party growing and successful. 

Recently, a recalcitrant Vecchio with the support of town board members began appointing people who were not named by Ellis.  Previous appointees with expiring terms were not reappointed. Board chairpersons  were uncerimoniously replaced. Not a good position for the head of the Republican Committee to be in. 

Ellis’s unwavering support of Conservative Vincent Puleo, a man Vecchio and his supporters feel was behind the oath of office debacle a tremendous embarrassment for the town and for Vecchio and Lynne Nowick, further complicates the relationship.

In interviews with Vecchio and Ellis both men were ferverant in their positions. Vecchio, who started his political life as a Democrat, believes that his actions are indicative of a person who puts Smithtown residents above party politics. Ellis believes that Vecchio’s time has come and is now over and that Ed Wehrheim is his man.

Clearly these two men do not like each other but more importantly they are unable to work together. Talking to both men you can hear their anger and distrust for each other. This is not a relationship that will improve after the primary. One gets the sense that this is a winner take all battle.