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Editorial / Op Ed

 

 

 


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.

 

Monday
Mar052018

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.

Tuesday
Feb062018

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. 

Monday
Dec112017

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.

Sunday
Oct082017

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.

Pat

Tuesday
Oct032017

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.

Tuesday
Sep122017

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.

Pat

Tuesday
Sep122017

Congressman Zeldin - Reflections On 16th Anniversary of Sept 11, 2001

 

Reflections on this 16th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks

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

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Americans awoke and prepared for what appeared to be a normal Tuesday, unaware that their lives, and their world, would soon be changed forever. Soon we would shockingly be thrown into a moment of total disbelief of the worst kind as the largest terrorist attack in history would be carried out on our homeland. Unless too young or not yet born, we all would forever remember exactly where we were at that very moment that the towers fell. For all of us here in New York’s First Congressional District, these attacks struck a most personal chord in ways once thought unimaginable. So many family members, friends, and neighbors were possibly within the vicinity of these attacks and Long Islanders very anxiously awaited assurances that loved ones were safe; some received the most devastating news possible. Like most Americans, many on Long Island could only helplessly watch in horror as evil struck at the heart of our nation. For other Long Islanders, they would courageously and selflessly risk everything responding directly into the danger to help strangers. Many innocent Americans were murdered that day and what was once a normal Tuesday would forever change our lives and our world. On this 16th Anniversary, we renew our pledge to “Never Forget”.

Nicholas P. Chiofalo of Selden, NY, was not like most Americans. An FDNY firefighter with Engine Company 235 in Brooklyn, as well as the Fire Chief for the Selden Fire Department, Mr. Chiofalo had already been on duty for 24 hours when the call came that there was an attack on the World Trade Center. Without a second thought, Mr. Chiofalo remained on his truck and traveled straight into Manhattan to selflessly serve the nation he loved so dearly. Aiming to save as many lives as possible, this hero in every sense of the word went into the South Tower three times to fulfill his mission. Along with his entire crew, Mr. Chiofalo perished when the South Tower collapsed. His sacrifice was not in vain though, and we will never forget what he did that day. Nicholas, among many others at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93, gave up their lives with infinite courage and honor that day. FDNY, NYPD, all firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, and any other first responder who served on September 11th deserve our unyielding support.

Many of our surviving 9/11 first responders continue to suffer from illnesses arising from their heroic work at Ground Zero. Exposure to the toxic fumes, ash, and debris have caused many to suffer from deadly illnesses and diseases, including cancer and lung disease. While they may have walked away from Ground Zero, many of these first responders have carried the deadly effects of these attacks ever since. That is why the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act continues to be so critically important for our 9/11 first responders and their families. Through this law, the World Trade Center Health Program and September 11th Victim Compensation Fund ensure proper care for those who answered the call that day and in the weeks and months to follow. These heroes must be provided every ounce of support we have to offer as citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, and we must never fall short in this essential obligation.

We also honor all of the brave servicemen and women who have fought, bled, and fell in the war against terror over the past 16 years. The resolve of the United States led to significant actions taken to secure our country at home and abroad. Our nation’s courageous defenders have put themselves in the line of fire time and again in defense of our freedoms and liberties. We must remain eternally grateful for their countless sacrifices on our behalf.

Like so many others, Nicholas Chiofalo did not wake up that fateful Tuesday with any idea that it would be his last. When that call came though that urgent help was needed at Ground Zero, he knew exactly what he needed to do to selflessly save his fellow man. As Americans, we will never forget what Nicholas and many others sacrificed that day. Despite the darkness of thousands of lives innocently lost, heroes like Nicholas Chiofalo fill our hearts and our nation with a strength that is so powerful and positive. That brightest light will surely never be forgotten nor should it ever.

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

Monday
Jun122017

Op - Ed Congressman Lee Zeldin - Eradicate Heroin And Opioid Abuse

We Must Eradicate Heroin and Opioid Abuse in Our Communities

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

The rise of drug abuse, addiction, and crime related to the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic is a deadly and destructive scourge that must be directly combatted and eradicated. Too many lives have been cut short; too many families ripped apart. No parent should ever have to bury their child for any reason, especially because they were suffering from a drug addiction and could not get the help they desperately needed. This problem is not going away unless something bold and massive is done that squashes this plague at the root of its source.

Our communities and families on Long Island have been especially impacted by the rise of prescription drug abuse and the growing heroin epidemic. As such, it is so important that we ensure every available resource is utilized to eradicate drug abuse from our neighborhoods. A key aspect of achieving this objective involves collaborative efforts with local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and those in recovery, to discuss and develop localized community based solutions to tackle this crisis, by increasing treatment, recovery services, and education.

To further support our communities as they take on this challenge, I was proud to have cosponsored and helped pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524), or CARA, in the last Congress. This critical legislation provides a total of $8.3 billion in funding over five years to help combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, and funds many initiatives on the local level. This includes $103 million over the five year authorization of the bill to establish a community-based competitive grant program to address and treat the challenges associated with heroin and opioid addiction and abuse, $160 million in funding over the authorization period for newly created treatment programs, the expansion of existing medically assisted treatments, and specialized treatment programs for pregnant women, veterans, and children through community based initiatives, and so much more.

Improving access and affordability of healthcare in America is another critical aspect of this fight. Addiction is a disease, and it should be treated as such. Unless we systematically and proactively restructure our existing options in healthcare positively, many Americans suffering from drug addiction will never recover. This includes ensuring access to insurance policies which cover long term treatment for those who desperately need it. Too often, those suffering from drug addiction are unable to receive the continuous coverage required for true recovery, and tragically lose their lives as a result.

I have also made it a priority to ensure that our communities are provided with higher supplies of Naloxone, or Narcan, a life saving medication that is safe and easy to administer, and has been proven to reverse an overdose within minutes. In addition to a provision of CARA which gives additional funding for a greater community supply of Narcan, I was a strong cosponsor of the Stop Overdose Stat (SOS) Act (H.R. 2850) in the 114th Congress which would provide an additional $25 million over a 5 year period for production and distribution to make sure that medical professionals and families have it in their possession, and are trained and ready to administer it. However, we must be sure that those who are saved by Narcan do not just return right away to using again and are immediately provided with the help needed to fully recover.

Through the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 244), bipartisan legislation which recently passed the House, $3.6 billion will be provided to aid in the implementation of CARA. The bill funds the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) at $130.5 million above the previous Administration’s budget request to aid in these efforts, while maintaining robust funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant at $1.8 billion. In addition, $500 million in funding will be authorized through the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34); bipartisan legislation which was passed and signed into law at the end of the last Congress. This provides a total increase of $650 million for initiatives to address the opioid crisis. I also announced last week that, through H.R. 244, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made available over $70 million in community based grants to combat this threat, which includes $28 million in funding for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help treat those suffering.

In addition to providing vital funding for treatment and education efforts, it is imperative that we take the necessary steps to secure our borders against those who bring in illicit substances which have wrecked havoc within our communities. It is good news that H.R. 244 also includes $1.5 billion in increased funding for border security to strengthen infrastructure and technology, and improve Border Patrol hiring initiatives. As part of a legislative package to combat drug abuse, several bills to cut the flow of drugs coming into our nation have passed the House. This includes H.R. 3380, a bill to help law enforcement officials identify and target drug traffickers, as well as the Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4985) to further combat narcotics trafficking, by allowing for easier prosecution of these criminals.

Addiction is a devastating disease that takes lives, tears families apart, and destroys our communities. The heroin and opioid abuse crisis has severely impacted our local community and has become a major issue across the country. It must be stopped. This is an effort that must be addressed at all levels of government. In Congress, I’ll continue working to advance legislation that helps those coping with drug addiction, by increasing treatment and recovery services to stop the tragic loss of life, family, and community as a result of addiction. This problem is far too serious to ignore, fail and not confront head on boldly and massively. I’ve personally been to too many wakes and funerals for young men and women who have lost their lives way too early and sadly. There remains so many lives that can still be saved.

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

Thursday
Jun012017

Editorial - Smithtown Republicans Call Foul At Convention

 

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott, “Marmion”

Truer words have never been spoken especially when it comes to this year’s Smithtown Republican convention. The convention, held at the Elks Club Tuesday night was plain old ugly. Instead of Edward Wehrheim, the Republican designee for Smithtown supervisor, going to the podium to thank the committee and to celebrate, there was screaming and outward rebellion as Vecchio supporters accused Chairman Bill Ellis of conspiring to defraud Patrick Vecchio his rightful nomination.  Charges which the chairman denied.

In politics it is not unusual for committee members to submit a proxy allowing a chairperson to use their vote to support a candidate. Many, many committee persons did just that. Many of them submitted their proxy with the expectation that the candidates for supervisor would be Patrick Vecchio and John Zollo, the only announced candidate challenging incumbent Patrick Vecchio. John Zollo was considered a long shot to beat out Vecchio. According to Vecchio supporters committee members sent in their proxies well in advance of the convention with the expectation that their vote would go to Patrick Vecchio. What happened next could only be considered a bait and switch scenario where Ed Wehrheim replaced John Zollo as the candidate and all the signed blank proxies submitted to Ellis were cast as votes for Wehrheim.

Bill Ellis notified Patrick Vecchio on Thursday May 25th that the nominating committee would be endorsing Ed Wehrheim for supervisor. In addition, he advised that the committee would not be endorsing Councilman McCarthy nor Councilwoman Nowick, but would be supporting newcomers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann. According to some members of the executive committee they had no indication that this was happening, a charge Ellis denies. 

Several executive committee members have confirmed that they were not aware of Wehrheim replacing Zollo, nor were they aware that Nowick and McCarthy were being replaced even though they had attended all scheduled executive board meetings. 

When the roll call was read with the word proxy, almost every time Ellis said “Wehrheim” indicating the votes would go to the Wehrheim. The room was silent as people realized there were more proxy’s than people in the audience and that the nominee would be Ed Wehrheim. There was nothing they could do but express their frustration. And they did loudly and passionately. 

Ed Wehrheim took to the podium and thanked the committee promising to continue to serve the community with “honor and integrity.” Those words were lost on the Vecchio supporters who emphasized that there was no honor, only dishonor in lying to committee members and swapping out John Zollo for Ed Wehrheim.

Supervisor Vecchio, Councilman McCarthy and Councilwoman Nowick have promised to primary. The primary will take place in September.

Oh what a tangled web we weave.

Pat