Tag Archive | "Kenneth P. LaValle"

LaValle & Fleming Debate in East Hampton

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By Amanda Wyatt; Photography by Michael Heller

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming – both vying to represent New York’s First District in the race for State Senate – locked horns in a debate on Monday night in East Hampton.

Approximately 50 people turned up at the Emergency Services Building to hear the candidates spar over a variety of issues. Bryan Boyhan, publisher of The Sag Harbor Express; David Rattray, editor of The East Hampton Star and League of Women Voters of the Hamptons member Judy Samuelson served as panelists.

Fleming, a Democrat from Noyac, opened the debate by suggesting it was time for a change of leadership, pointing out that LaValle has served in the state senate for 36 years. She also noted that if she wins the election, she would be the first woman senator from Suffolk County.

“I’m running because business as usual has failed us in Albany,” she said.

LaValle, a Republican from Port Jefferson, cited his long record in the state senate as reason to keep him in his position.

“My motto is, First District first,” he said. “…I want to talk about my record, because it’s a distinguished record and one that has served the people of this district.”

LaValle brought up his past efforts in environmental conservation, education and health care, specifically highlighting his role in the recent partnership between Stony Brook University Medical Center and Southampton Hospital.

While much attention was paid to hot-button issues like campaign finance reform and government spending during Monday’s debate, issues particular to the East End were also in focus. The ongoing dispute over the perceived increase in noise from The East Hampton Airport came up, with candidates asked whether it was time to take legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Fleming said she had approached the Southampton Town attorney about the possibility of initiating a lawsuit against the FAA, and that the town council had “met ad nauseum,” she said, with other government leaders over the issue of aircraft noise.

Additionally, said Fleming, she believes enforcing flying curfews and implementing altitude requirements for aircraft could be key components in reducing noise.

LaValle, on the other hand, believed he had “a good disposition to get people to find common ground.”

He suggested the use of a proposed Atlantic Ocean route, which would bring helicopters over the Georgica section of East Hampton, as a way to alleviate residents in Noyac, North Haven and Sag Harbor, as well as the North Fork, of incessant helicopter noise.

“I believe that that is a viable alternative that has to be pursued with all of our vigor,” he said.

Earlier this month, LaValle was joined by a cadre of government officials in signing a letter to the FAA demanding it implement that southern flight path.

The candidates were also asked whether the state should play a role in controlling Lyme disease, as well as managing the deer population.

Calling deer “very formidable,” LaValle said he helped fund the 4-Poster program that has been implemented in Shelter Island as well as other communities like Fire Island to stop the spread of ticks.

The 4-Poster Program, licensed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is a feeding station for deer equipped with a strong tickicide.

Implementing a 4-Poster program has most recently been debated in North Haven Village, although it appears that village board is looking towards culling the herd as a means of relief.

“Yes, there are times when I’ve used leadership to steer things in a particular direction, but local people have to be in favor of whatever you want to do,” said LaValle.

Fleming also mentioned using the 4-Poster program, as well as the need to find ways of “humanely reducing” the deer population.

The two-percent property tax levy cap was another topic of debate. While LaValle voted for the cap, he said he had “pushed for the maximum state aid that we were able to generate.”

He added, “sharing services is probably the first step that needs to be taken. I think all levels of government need to share the taxing resources that they have.”

LaValle mentioned he had already supported the consolidation of two school districts on the North Fork and supported the reorganization of schools on the South Fork.

Like LaValle, Fleming expressed the need for mandate relief.

“We’ve got to look at the places where our budgets are leaking, and the state, as sort of the bully pulpit, can induce local municipalities and school districts to lower their costs,” she said. “And that is what the point of the two-percent tax cap really should be, if it stays in place.”

The ever-present issue of jobs was also touched on.

“I don’t think anyone has worked harder to deal with introducing jobs here,” said LaValle, noting that protecting the environment was key to creating jobs and sustaining tourism.

For Fleming, the loss of local jobs is due to the fact many companies cannot afford to stay in the area. She pointed out that Long Island has the highest electric rates in the continental United States, which was a turnoff to corporations.

In her closing statement, Fleming noted that the election has gained national attention.

“If I win, I’ll be the first senator who is a female from eastern Long Island, and the first from all of Long Island since 1984,” she said.

“We can’t let this moment pass,” she added. “We have the opportunity to break into the boys’ club.”

In his closing statement, LaValle brought up his accomplishments in health care, among other things.

“This area will no longer be medically underserved,” he said, speaking to the potential in the partnership between Stony Brook Southampton and Southampton Hospital. “This area will receive the best health care and specialists, so that you don’t have to travel long distances.”

“I believe that over the years in my career that I have been a leader in many, many different areas,” LaValle added. “And I think that’s why the people of the first district have returned me to office.”

LaValle Bill Supporting Breast Cancer Patients Signed into Law

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A bill sponsored by New York Senator Kenneth P. LaValle that would help some breast cancer patients by requiring insurance companies to cover reconstruction for partial mastectomies has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The bill adds partial mastectomies to law that already covers reconstruction for full mastectomies.

“This law follows my 1997 legislation, now law, requiring insurance providers to include coverage for complete breast reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy,” Senator LaValle said. “Partial mastectomy is the most common form of breast cancer surgery and should be required to be covered by insurance providers.”

“Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer should be able concentrate on getting well and recovering, not about whether insurance will pay for reconstruction if they are undergoing a partial mastectomy,” Senator LaValle added.
The law follows another LaValle measure, legislation he supported to improve early breast cancer detection that was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 24. That law will increase women’s awareness of the presence of dense breast tissue found during a mammography exam. Dense breast tissue may make it more difficult to detect tumors.

“This new law will help save women’s lives by increasing awareness of a known breast cancer risk factor,” said LaValle. “Along with routine breast cancer screenings, the information provided by physicians to those with dense breast tissue can help increase early detection of the disease and give patients a greater ability to make educated decisions about their health.”

Haerter & Theinert to be Inducted into Veterans Hall of Fame Today

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Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, from Sag Harbor (above) and Army 1st Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert, from Shelter Island, will be inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 22.

As the East End readies for Memorial Day weekend, there was no truer reminder that this holiday has less to do with hot dogs and house rentals and more do with honoring those who have fallen in service to the United States than what will occur Tuesday in Albany. There, family, friends and government leaders will gather in honor of two veterans from the East End who gave their lives in battle — Sag Harbor’s own Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter and Army 1st Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert from Shelter Island.

Both men will posthumously inducted into the New York State Senate’s Veterans’ Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 22. They were nominated for the honor by New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

“Joe Theinert and Jordan Haerter are true heroes who gave their lives to protecting the freedoms we treasure,” said LaValle in a statement released last week. “They should be recognized and commended by our State and community. The New York State Veterans’ Hall of Fame is a tribute to these two fine young men that demonstrates our respect and gratitude for their patriotism and sacrifice.”

Army 1st Lieutenant Theinert was deployed to Afghanistan at the age of 24. Approximately six weeks into his deployment, he was killed in action on June 4, 2010 while on patrol in the Dand District in Kandahar was investigating an improvised explosive device, which detonated. No other members of Army 1st Lieutenant Theinert’s platoon were killed or injured.

Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, who entered the Marine Corps directly out of high school, was a Platoon High Shooter in his Alpha Company platoon. On April 22, Lance Corporal Haerter was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq. Jordan, a member of the proud and storied 1st Battalion, 9th Marines also known as ‘The Walking Dead’, and fellow marine, CPL Jonathan T. Yale, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, were standing guard at an entry control point when a large truck careened off track and ignored calls to halt. Haerter and Yale opened fire to protect the checkpoint and were killed by the resulting 2,000-pound blast that came from the rigged vehicle.

Their actions saved scores of servicemen and women from both the United States and Iraq.

LCPL Jordan Haerter’s military awards include the Navy Cross Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Iraqi Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.


School Tax Law Concerns

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As school districts on the East End of Long Island attempt to tackle the conundrum of trying to provide competitive services for students, while keeping spending in line to appease taxpayers, initial proposals by state government for school-tax relief have some district’s wondering if they won’t be left at a disadvantage.

At the Sag Harbor School Board’s last meeting, on September 8, the board encouraged a room full of administrators, parents and teachers to attend a meeting at the Center Moriches High School on Monday, September 22, hosted by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. The forum will focus on proposals concerning state education funding and school taxes – an issue state officials have been wrestling with in an effort to provide taxpayer relief without leaving school districts in the financial lurch.

The Center Moriches forum is the last of several meetings Thiele, and state Senator Kennneth P. LaValle, have hosted to speak with members of the community about proposed legislation to provide property tax relief. Forums were held last week in Bridgehampton and this past week in Springs on the same issue.

The legislation, which is based on a report issued in July by the New York Commission on Property Tax Relief – a commission headed by Nassau County Executive Thomas Souzzi – aims to provide property tax relief in two separate bills in the New York State Senate and Assembly.

The commission submitted a preliminary report, which was accepted by Governor David Paterson, who has been vocal in his support for the tax cap, earlier this year. The final report will be submitted on December 1, 2008. 

The commission argues that New York State has the highest local taxes of any large state in America and is 79 percent above the national average.

The state senate bill would impose a cap of four percent on a school district’s property tax increase. The district can override the cap with a vote of 55 percent majority, or a 60 percent majority if the district has received an increase of five percent or more in state aid that year. The state senate bill applies to virtually every school district in the state, save Buffalo, New York, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

The assembly bill, on the other hand, provides a refund based on the household income of a family and the percentage of property taxes compared to that income. The assembly bill states that families taking in $90,000 or less would be eligible for a 25 percent refund on the taxes that exceed five percent of their income. A sliding scale provides similar relief for families making between $90,000 and $250,000, although at smaller rates.

“There are certain critical issues regardless of what the final bill looks like,” Thiele said on Wednesday of the proposals. “Property taxes need to be reduced because we can’t ask people to make the decision over their home or education.”

 “The concerns of the superintendents are that they won’t have adequate funding,” Thiele continued, summing up what a number of school district administrators have expressed publicly in the last two weeks about the cap in particular. “But we will work with the state to come to a consensus during the budget next year.”

 “Property tax reform is an issue that can’t wait,” he added.

The Suffolk County School Superintendents Association expressed their concerns with the proposed tax cap last week and asked for increases in federal aid. The tax cap, they added, could become problematic in the event of large increases in class sizes and could lead to teacher layoffs.

 “I think its poor legislation and should not be adopted for several reasons,” Dr. John Gratto, Superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District said on Wednesday. “First of all it is based on false premises that school boards are unable or unwilling to provide or limit expenses.”

“I think school districts are the best example of democracy,” he continued. “This will take away local control.”

“We may need to spend more because of increased fuel costs or other transportation issues,” said Gratto of some of the situations district’s could find themselves in if faced with a four percent cap. “In that case, services to students would have to be cut to cover these costs and the impact on the students could be very detrimental.”

Bridgehampton School District Superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood echoed Gratto’s concerns, although she noted that she is still researching the legislation and has yet to attend a forum due to scheduling conflicts.

Youngblood cited county research that showed that a four percent cap could in reality translate to a two percent cap in spending increases after contractual increases in health insurance and energy costs are factored in.

Youngblood noted the financial crisis Wall Street has faced in the last week has painted a bleak economic picture her district has been trying to anticipate for some time now.

 “These are frightening times,” she said. “We realize that something needs to be done regarding taxes and school budgets and I think at Bridgehampton that is why our board and our administration has tried to be at the forefront of talking about choice in education on the East End. Some change is going to have to come about.”

The district has been in ongoing discussions about sharing services and has even discussed a charter-like school system on the East End on a theoretical basis.

“I think those of us at the table, we are all just wrestling with these issues,” said Youngblood. “But let’s really talk about this [proposal] and ensure whatever is put in place is not only in place for taxpayers and residents. We have to make sure students and districts don’t get squeezed in the process.”

Additional reporting by Kathryn G. Menu