Tag Archive | "Senator Kenneth P. Lavalle"

Women of Distinction Sought

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New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle is once again seeking nominations for a woman to be recognized as a New York State Senate First District’s “Woman of Distinction.”

Residents of the district have been encouraged to nominate friends, spouses, coworkers and neighborhood leaders who have performed outstanding work on behalf of their communities.

“Once a year, this program provides us with a special opportunity to honor extraordinary women for their achievements.  I am proud that we have many deserving women in the area I represent.  I look forward to reviewing the accomplishments of all of the nominees.” Senator LaValle said.

The Senate will honor a distinguished woman from each of the state’s Senate districts in a ceremony in Albany on May 5. Each honoree’s photograph and biography will become part of a special exhibit proclaiming their contributions to society. Senator LaValle’s nominee will be invited to join other distinguished individuals from across New York State with a special reception and ceremony in the Legislative Office Building in Albany on that date.

To nominate someone, go to nysenate.gov/senator/kenneth-p-lavalle and click the “Women of Distinction” icon to be brought to the online application. The deadline for entries is April 13.

Previous winners have included leading women from the world of business, academics and civic life, as well as those who have performed heroic or selfless acts, made significant discoveries or provided examples of personal excellence against difficult odds.

The Women of Distinction program was created as part of the Senate’s celebration of Women’s History Month.  In addition to recognizing present-day women, each March, the Senate hosts a display that honors other distinguished women from New York’s past, from leaders of the 19th Century suffragist movement to pioneers in education, science and the arts.

Thiele, LaValle Meet the Voters in Montauk

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday as state Senator Kenneth P. LaValle looks on. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and state Senator Kenneth P. LaValle made rare appearances in this year’s campaign when the Concerned Citizens of Montauk held their annual candidates forum at the Montauk Firehouse on Sunday.

Neither Brian DeSesa, a member of the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals and a Sag Harbor attorney who is challenging Mr. Thiele on the Conservative ticket, nor Heather Collins, a Suffolk County Board of Elections official, who is running on the Republican line, attended the forum. Mr. LaValle’s opponent, Michael Conroy, a member of both the Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town Democratic committees, was also a no-show.

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin, also spoke at the forum, with their debate largely mirroring one that took place in Westhampton Beach last week.

In asking for voters’ continued support, Mr. Thiele told the audience he was the only independent assemblyman in the legislature, and touted his work on behalf of the East End.

He cited his roles in helping East Hampton Town dig its way out of a $30 million budget deficit left by former Supervisor Bill McGintee in 2009 as well as in passing special legislation that waived fines when due to a computer glitch the town failed to send out a third of its property tax bills in a timely fashion.

Mr. Thiele said the state had submitted on-time budgets for the past four years, lowered income taxes and turned a $10 billion deficit into a $4.5 billion surplus.

“That’s not to say all our work is done, but we’ve made progress,” Mr. Thiele said.

Mr. Thiele said he was most proud of his sponsorship of the Community Preservation Fund, which, he said, has raised nearly $1 billion during its lifetime, including some $265 million this year.

Mr. LaValle said both he and Mr. Thiele are highly rated by New York Public Interest Research Group. “We are creative and aggressive in our action,” he said. “We go to Albany for you and we try do the best possible job.”

Mr. LaValle said the state’s 2-percent tax cap was helping to hold down property taxes and that the state was increasing school aid. He also pointed to his work on behalf of the Stony Brook Southampton campus, which he said would help create jobs, as well as his efforts to help shepherd through the affiliation of Southampton Hospital with Stony Brook University Hospital.

The candidates’ discussion was largely cordial, although Amos Goodman provoked the ire of Mr. Thiele when he accused him of taking part in “a sleazy bait and switch” by being a member of the Independence Party while caucusing with the Democrats, led by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

“I don’t want to carry the baggage of one major party or another,” replied Mr. Thiele. “I get support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents because I represent the people in my district.”

CCOM executive director Jeremy Samuelson asked the candidates what they thought about a proposal that would allow CPF money to be used to help protect water quality.

Mr. Thiele stressed that discussions were at the early stages and would require voter approval to extend the CPF for another 20 years before the fund’s focus could be expanded to include water protection. But he added that protecting water quality would fit the CPF’s mandate of protecting the East End’s character.

“We are seeing water quality problems everywhere,” he said. “We can’t buy enough land to solve this problem.”

“Many of you know I have been an open space hawk,” Mr. LaValle said of his support of efforts to protect land, which he said helps protect the quality of life and the environment. He said he would support efforts to make water protection a higher priority.

Steps are already afoot to do so, he said, including the formation of a water institute at Stony Brook University to work on new technologies for dealing with nitrates and septic systems.

Audience members also asked about the elected officials’ efforts to intercede on behalf of East Hampton in its dispute with PSEG Long Island, which installed hundreds of 60-foot-tall poles from East Hampton Village to Amagansett earlier this year.

Mr. Thiele complained that the utility was as bad as the former Long Island Lighting Company in ignoring local concerns. “That’s because they have no oversight from the Public Service Commission,” he said. Mr. LaValle agreed that PSEG talked a good game when it took over the maintenance of the electricity from National Grid last year but soon showed another face.

Another audience member asked about Mr. Thiele’s long-term effort to eliminate zone pricing of petroleum products, which results in higher gas prices on the East End. Mr. Thiele said he hoped that with Mr. LaValle’s help, a measure that has passed in the Assembly outlawing the practice, could be passed in the Senate.

Both officials also said they were happy that the state is approaching the end of a long-needed Route 27 paving project, with Mr. Thiele adding that it now needs to turn its attention to Route 114, where there is a need for repaving in some places as well as an effort to address safety issues.

East End Towns Budget Money for South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative

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By Mara Certic

Supervisors in both East Hampton and Southampton kept to their words this week when they put $25,000 aside in their tentative budgets to go towards improving mental healthcare in South Fork school districts.

In April, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle awarded $150,000 in state aid as seed money for the first step of the three-pronged South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative.

Senator LaValle secured an additional $5,000 each for the Sag Harbor, Southampton, East Hampton and Hampton Bays school districts. Each district, in turn, is expected to match that amount.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman managed to get his hands on $17,000 more from the county, bringing the anticipated total funding on the South Fork up to $257,000 for phase one.

This first phase, which Mr. Thiele had anticipated would require $320,000 in total funding, would establish a crisis service that would provide immediate mental and behavioral health needs specifically to South Fork area students. It is proposed one full-time psychiatrist be hired to work at the Family Service League’s East Hampton and Westhampton Mental Health Clinics. The first step is also slated to include the hiring of two full-time social workers.

“It also establishes Family Service League as the interim point of contact for crisis intervention,” Mr. Thiele’s proposal reads. “A permanent point of contact will be established in the second phase, which builds on and expands the crisis service through a mobile unit and community collaboration.”

The third phase would involve seeking out support from Stony Brook University’s psychiatric residency program.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the issue of seriously lacking mental healthcare on the South Fork was first brought to his attention by the East Hampton School District over a year ago.

As it stands now, there is no appropriate process set in place for a student who might be experiencing a crisis at school on the East End, be it threatening self-harm or contemplating suicide. According to Karen Boorshtein, president and CEO of the Family Service League, “When a school district encounters a crisis, they usually need to involve the police and have the youth transported over 60 miles to the psychiatric emergency room at Stony Brook.” Not only does this place strain on local police departments, but more often than not, these troubled children are handcuffed and placed into the back of a police vehicle for their trip up to their evaluation.

Once students return from their emergency evaluations, they then often face long waiting lists at local mental health clinics. There is not a large pool of mental health professionals on the East End, which many attribute to our remote location and rather sparse year-round population. Those who do operate on the South Fork often do not accept insurance and typically charge $200 to $300 an hour, according to Ms. Boorshtein.

“The last two years have seen the completed suicides of three youth and a significant increase in the number of mental health crises being experienced by youth and requiring school districts to respond,” Ms. Boorshtein wrote in a e-mail on Monday.

According to the CDC, the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 is suicide. In a 2011 nationally representative sample of high school students, 15.8 percent of youths reported they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey.

According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), an organization dedicated to suicide prevention, the strongest risk factor for suicide is depression. The organization also claims that 80 percent of those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

“The grant will increase and improve coordination of community mental health services to avoid future mental health crisis and suicides,” Ms. Boorshtein said.

The initiative also calls for telepsychiatry, which will provide secure phone lines on which troubled students can talk to licensed psychiatrists. The American Psychiatric Association recently deemed telepsychiatry “one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas.”

The Family Service League is gearing up to start making these changes, and soon enough, phase one will be implemented on the South Fork. But the battle ahead is long, and much more money will be needed to complete all three of the steps.

“The potential catastrophe here is around the corner if we can’t deal with this better than we have been in the past,” Mr. Cantwell said.

Thursday, October 9 is National Depression Screening Day on which individuals can take a free online mental health screening at helpyourselfhelpothers.org 

East Hampton Tax Deadline Extended

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle this week announced that Governor Andrew Cuomo had signed legislation allowing Suffolk County to extend the real estate tax payment deadline for the residents of the East Hampton this year, protecting residents from any penalties.

A computer system error in East Hampton Town’s Tax Receiver’s office resulted in more than 5,000 property tax bills being sent out too late to make the January 10, 2014 payment deadline. Because many residents did not receive their tax bills on time, the town approached Assemblyman Thiele to seek an extension of the deadline.

The law signed by the governor allows the county to waive any interest and penalties that town taxpayers would have incurred if they missed the deadline. Before that can happen, though, the Suffolk County Legislature must pass a resolution adopting the provisions within 30 days.

Long Island: One State…Three Counties, Not One County

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By Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Government can be too small, but it can also be too big.

During the Great Recession we have looked for chances to consolidate government where it would be more efficient. We should be equally diligent in looking at government entities that have become too large, expensive and unaccountable. The perfect example is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which seems to constantly cost more and more in taxes and provide less and less in service. We would be better served on Long Island by the break up of the MTA into smaller more efficient and accountable units.

This brings me to the recent proposal by the Long Island Association (LIA) to study the concept of consolidating Suffolk and Nassau County into one county to be known as Long Island County. While I never oppose the concept of a study, this just seems inherently to be a bad idea.

First, from the perspective of the East End, if you think County government is already too big and far away and indifferent to our region, how can doubling its size and moving the center of power even further to the west be a good thing? Attempting to address the unique needs of the rural East End with its farms, fishing and tourist based economy would be that much harder as part of a county that would have more than 2.8 million people. If there were a 22 member Long Island County Legislature, the East End would have one member.

From a broader perspective, County government was not meant to serve 2.8 million people. It is local government. Nassau and Suffolk are already the two largest counties in the State outside of New York City, which does not have County government. Thirty-nine of New York’s 57 counties outside of New York City have 150,000 people or less. This new mega-county would become just as large, inefficient, and unaccountable as the MTA.

If we really want to improve government efficiency on Long Island, we should pursue the concept of the State of Long Island with three counties, Nassau, Suffolk and Peconic. State Senator Ken LaValle and I are the sponsors of A.1406/S.1453 which would establish a bi-county commission to study the feasibility of the State of Long Island, and A.2082/S.1312 which would establish a procedure for the creation of Peconic County.

Long Island is larger in area than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Our population is larger than 19 states. For the years 2002-2004, Long Islanders paid $8.1 billion in State taxes and received back only $5.2 billion.

As for Peconic County, it was confirmed long ago, that smaller Peconic County could better focus County resources on East End needs and reduce the County share of the property tax by 50 percent.

Admittedly, the creation of new states or counties of any sort is a long shot in the current climate. Nevertheless, it is always a fruitful exercise to focus attention on the East End as we fight for our share of government resources on the Federal, State, or County level.

However, let’s focus on what alternatives provide more efficient government. Bigger is not always better.