Tag Archive | "State Senator Lee Zeldin"

Voters Go to the Polls Tuesday

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Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo,

Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on last week, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo.

By Mara Certic

Although certain book tours and photo opportunities might suggest otherwise, the presidential election is still two whole years away. But this Tuesday, November 4, East Enders will have the opportunity to vote for several elected offices during the midterm elections.

The race to watch, however, is the same fight that took place six years ago. U.S. Representative Tim Bishop has once again found himself battling it out against Republican challenger Lee Zeldin.

Mr. Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton, was first elected in 2002. He has beaten out Republican challengers in every election since, including when he beat Mr. Zeldin in 2008 by a 58-to-42 margin.

Mr. Zeldin, who lives in Shirley, represents the 3rd District in the New York State Senate. He is a major in the United States Army Reserve who served in Iraq in 2006 with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

The politicians have faced off in dozens of debates in the past few months, and each time have offered up views that differ on practically every issue before them. Mr.  Bishop has stressed that his record of constituent service, his ability to work across the aisle, and the seniority he has achieved after 12 years in the House make him the better candidate.

Mr. Zeldin has railed against the size of the federal government, high taxes, Obamacare, and the slow pace of economic recovery and has suggested that Mr. Bishop is part of the problem.

At a candidates’ forum hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk last week, Mr. Zeldin, who says he is in favor of states’ rights,  said he thought issues such as the groundwater problem on the East End would be better solved at the state and local levels while Mr. Bishop said the federal government is an essential player.

Mr. Bishop supports a woman’s right to choose and same sex marriage and Mr. Zeldin, on the other hand, voted against the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and describes himself as pro-life.

Although Mr. Zeldin has called for spending cuts, Mr. Bishop has often pointed out that 75 cents of every federal dollar is already accounted for and that reducing spending is easier said than done and needs to be approached in a bipartisan way.

A poll taken by Newsday, News 12 and Siena College in early September showed Mr. Bishop  with a commanding 10 point lead over Mr. Zeldin, but the race is expected to be a close one.

First on the ballot this year is the race for governor and lieutenant governor where incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, will face off against Republicans Rob Astorino and Chris Moss.

Governor Cuomo, who was elected in 2010, has been criticized by his East End constituents for what they say are his unfulfilled promises and lack of leadership regarding certain PSEG and LIPA projects. Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Hochul were challenged by a pair of law professors in the Democratic primary in September.

Although Governor Cuomo won the Democratic primary, his opponent Zephyr Teachout proved to be very popular on the East End when 100 more voters in East Hampton chose the newcomer over the incumbent.

Nevertheless, polls have Mr. Cuomo with a 21-point lead over Mr. Astorino, who has been Westchester’s county executive since 2009. Mr. Moss, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, is the sheriff of Chemung County, and is the first black candidate on the GOP’s statewide ticket.

Voters will also choose the state senator and assemblyman, with incumbents Kenneth P. LaValle and Fred W. Thiele Jr. both running against opponents who have neither campaigned nor shown up to any candidate events.

Michael L. Conroy of Manorville is running against Senator LaValle on the Democratic ticket. Mr. Conroy is a member and former chairman of both the Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town Democratic Committees.

Senator LaValle, who is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party tickets, was first elected to the State Senate in 1976. A resident of Port Jefferson, Mr. LaValle has been involved in many local projects, recently has secured funding to fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses as well as money for other environmental and capital projects.

Sag Harbor’s Mr. Thiele has represented District 2 in the New York State Assembly since 1995 and is a sponsor of the Community Preservation Fund. Like Mr. LaValle, he has touted his ability to bring home state funding for important projects, just last week, announcing grants for the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor and the construction of a roundabout at the five-corners intersection in East Hampton Village  A member of the Republican Party until 2009, Mr. Thiele is now a member of the Independence Party.

Running against Mr. Thiele on the Republican ticket is Heather C. Collins, a Suffolk County Board of Elections official. Also vying against Mr. Thiele is Brian J. De Sesa, on the Conservative line. Mr. De Sesa is an attorney at Edward J. Burke and Associates in Sag Harbor and also sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals in Southampton Town.

Races for state comptroller and attorney general both will see incumbents, Thomas Di Napoli and Eric Schneiderman, on the Democratic ticket facing off against Republican candidates Robert Antonacci and John Cahill. East Enders will also get a chance to vote for justice of the Supreme Court in the 10th judicial district, county court judge, family court judge, county clerk and county comptroller.

East Enders will also have to cast their votes on five different propositions on their ballots, Tuesday, with Southampton Town residents being asked to vote on a sixth.

NYS, Proposal Number 1: An Amendment, Revising the State’s Redistricting Procedure, has been written in an attempt to prevent gerrymandering. The proposed amendment would establish a new redistricting commission, on which neither legislators nor other elected officials could serve. The new procedure would also involve more public hearings and would aim to establish principles to be used when creating election districts.

NYS, Proposal Number 2: An Amendment, Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills, would do just that. It would allow the state to electronically send bills to legislators at their desks, instead of giving out hard copies. The amendment stipulates all legislators must be able to print out the bills, if they so choose, and that no changes can be made to the bills electronically without leaving some sort of trace.

NYS, Proposal Number 3: An Amendment, The Smart School Bond Act of 2014, would authorize the sale of up to $2 billion in state bonds in order to improve technology in schools. The money would go toward providing better access to classroom technology and high-speed internet-connectivity as well as installing smart security features in schools and modernizing classrooms.

Suffolk County Proposal Number 1: A Charter Law To Consolidate Financial Management Functions In The County Department Of Audit And Control would abolish the office of the Suffolk County Treasurer and with that, the Department of Finance and Taxation. If this proposal is approved, the county comptroller would assume all of those powers and duties on January 1, 2018.

Suffolk County Proposal Number 2: A Charter Law Amending the 1/4% Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) for Enhanced Water Quality Protection, Wastewater Infrastructure And General Property Fund Tax Relief for Suffolk County would restore funds taken from the DWPP and put in place strict guidelines for future borrowing.

Residents of Southampton Town will be asked to vote on a proposition that would allow the town to swap a parcel of parkland purchased with Community Preservation Fund money for a piece of adjoining land twice the size owned by Suffolk County. This swap will allow the county to use town land to put in safety improvements at the Riverside traffic circle.

 

 

 

Group Helps Vets Adjust to Life on the Home Front

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Roger King, left, with Hunter, and Sean O’Donnell, with Kuno, are members of a new veterans support group in Sag Harbor.

By Stephen J. Kotz

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Roger King was stationed at an outpost in Fallujah, Iraq, on July 31, 2006, when a patrol returning to the base was ambushed near the front gate. Lance Corporal King, who was nearby, ran to get his weapon to return fire. It was the last thing he remembered.

“I was hit by a sniper in the helmet,” said Mr. King, who was knocked unconscious by the bullet’s impact. After three days of medical treatment, he was back on duty, showing no apparent lingering effects from his head injury, and chalking up his lucky escape to his modern helmet.

But Mr. King, a Sag Harbor native, who had been planning to reenlist when his tour of duty ended, knew something was wrong several months later when, during a training mission, he had to play the role of a soldier who had been shot and killed by a sniper. “It led to me getting nightmares and the post-traumatic effects of getting shot,” he said.

Mr. King said he eventually concluded that he could not fulfill the duties expected of him as a marine and reluctantly chose to leave the service. Once back home, though, he continued to do battle with his nightmares and was eventually referred to Katherine Mitchell, a licensed clinical social worker, by a friend at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Sag Harbor.

“It became pretty clear, early on, that it was important to have something available to him, beyond just talking to me,” said Ms. Mitchell, who began meeting with Mr. King in June 2013 and thought he would benefit from talking about his readjustment to civilian life with fellow veterans.

After a little research, Ms. Mitchell discovered the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project, a joint initiative of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and the Suffolk County United Veterans.

The project is named after Joseph Dwyer, an army medic from Mt. Sinai, who, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, committed suicide after his return from Iraq in 2008. The program, which was championed by State Senator Lee Zeldin, is funded by New York State and has now been expanded to a dozen counties statewide.

By September, the project had agreed to launch its first peer support group on the East End, one that now meets weekly at Ms. Mitchell’s Noyac office.

Although Ms. Mitchell said post-traumatic stress disorder is a major concern and that the number of veterans committing suicide has reached epidemic proportions—a recent Veterans Administration study found that as many as 22 veterans kill themselves each day—she stressed that the support group is available to serve all veterans.

“Anybody who serves in the military is changed by it, it’s a change of culture,” she said. “It’s not just about PTSD and guys freaking out. There are a lot of things to come to terms with while readjusting to civilian life.”

“With peer support, we are trying to provide an alternative to group therapy,” said Sean O’Donnell, a sergeant in the Army National Guard from Patchogue, who now serves as the facilitator of the Noyac/Sag Harbor group. “We are trying to catch the guys who fall through the net” and might not actively seek out more traditional forums to discuss their problems.

Mr. O’Donnell said he had his own difficulties readjusting to civilian life. In Iraq, he served on a security detail for convoys of 50 to 100 18-wheel semi-tractor trailers that would barrel from Kuwait into Iraq.

“We didn’t have a lot of fire fights, but there were plenty of close calls,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “Plus, there was the constant tension, the constant threat of a truck rolling over or getting blown up. My job was to sit up and be on the alert.”

When he got home, he found himself suffering from a condition known as hyper vigilence in which he would notice absolutely everything along the road, from the clothing other drivers were wearing to pieces of debris on the shoulder. It got to the point, he said, where he would make his wife drive and he would sit with his eyes closed in a fully reclined passenger seat to try to avoid the stress it caused.

Mr. O’Donnell, who now runs four different meetings in Suffolk County each week, said that another aspect of the PFC Joseph Dwyer Project is that the program is willing to offer veterans non-traditional services that run the gamut from yoga to acupuncture.

It just so happens that Ms. Mitchell shares office space with Mikal Gohring, an acupuncturist, who is offering free treatments to the members of the support group following a model that was developed by volunteers treating victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Mr. Gohring said that many veterans the group in New Orleans treated for storm-related stress issues, raved about the results, leading it to expand its offerings.

“I’m looking forward to it growing,” he said, noting that he planned to offer demonstrations at the Sag Harbor VFW and American Legion.

Mr. O’Donnell, whose German short-haired pointer, Kuno, recently sired puppies, has added yet another offered to the mix in the form of a therapy dog program that he leads on weekends. One of his puppies, Hunter, will be going to Mr. King.

“We pretty much offer the whole spectrum,” said Mr. O’Donnell, “from alternative treatments to offering outings for guys who want to go out and go on fishing trips or go kayaking.”

There’s food too. Jordan’s Initiative, the charity started by JoAnn Lyles, whose son’s Jordan Haerter was killed in Iraq six years ago this week, delivers free meals to the veterans on meeting nights.

The director of the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project, John Schulz, is also veteran, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq.

“These guys are coming back, especially the reservists, with very little debriefing,” he said. “They are released back into the world and a year later they could be called right back up again.”

“The groups usually start by word of mouth, veterans talking to veterans,” he continued. There are now seven active groups in Suffolk County and he said he expected two or three more to be up and running by summer. “Sag Harbor seems to be a successful. We’d like to set them up in Southampton and East Hampton.”

Mr. Schulz said the project likes to keep the groups small. “We try not to have more than four or five guys,” he said. “One the group gets too big, people sit back and let the other people do the talking or they just get overwhelmed.”

“I do what I can, but this is really about peer support,” said Ms. Mitchell of the meetings at her office. “I’m always on the fringes of it.”

She added, though, that it’s not always just veterans. “They have had a couple of meetings where they have invited significant others so family members get an idea of what their loved ones have experienced.”

“It’s not just talking about your problems,” added Mr. King, who is training to become a facilitator himself as the program expands. “It’s about talking to other vets, bouncing ideas off of them, and pretty much the idea of having that best friend and comrade who is willing to say, ‘Hey, this is what works for me.’”