Patch is providing election coverage with candidate profiles and Q&A's. Check in with Patch through Nov. 2 to read up on the candidates and the issues that affect our community.
The 16th Assembly District includes parts of Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset, Albertson, Roslyn, Garden City Park, North New Hyde Park, Mineola, Old Westbury and Williston Park. Michelle Schimel and Scott D. Diamond are vying for New York 16th Assembly District on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
- Schimel is the (incumbent) Democratic candidate who will also appear on the Independence and Working Families party line. She is serving her second term in the New York State Assembly. She is running on a platform of finance and ethics reform in the state legislature, environmental protection, anti-crime, government efficiency and transparency and healthcare reform to reduce costs and improve care. She is an advocate for public education and the health and well-being of veterans. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Schimel has served as town clerk for North Hempstead, a physical therapist and certified wound care specialist at North Shore-LIJ and was a small business owner of a fashion accessories firm. She lives in Great Neck with her husband, and has two sons.
- Diamond is the Republican and Conservative candidate. He currently serves as a paralegal for a private contracting company with the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division. He believes that the legislature is out of touch with the needs of its constituents, and wants to bring new leadership to Albany. He does not support the idea of career politics, and sees his role as an advocate for the community he represents. He is a graduate of the College of Staten Island with a BA in Political Science. Married since 2003, he resides in Mineola. He has no children but plans to adopt.
Patch posed the following questions to each candidate.
How would you reduce wasteful spending in government?
Schimel: New York State has to shore up its balance sheet. The costs of government programs need to be realistic and show measurable outcomes. Fiscal and programmatic audits of each budget-funded agency including public authorities must be undertaken. Why add new programs if we do not know if existing programs work?
Agencies must actively manage and reduce overtime costs and justify annual overtime budgets. Also, a plan must be implemented across the board to establish caps on the amount of overtime compensation considered for pension calculations.
In addition, there are more than 700 public authorities that exist in New York State [that] still function in an autonomous fashion and accumulate billions in state debt. Ongoing investigations into several authorities have highlighted the need for improvements in transparency and responsiveness. The Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009 was a huge victory for reform. The legislation created an Independent Authorities Budget Office, equipping it with the statutory tools necessary to require and enforce reporting mandates. Additional provisions include: vesting power in the State Comptroller to review contracts over one million dollars, improving board governance and member qualification and clarification of lobbying activities.
We should also consider changing state budgets to a two year cycle.
Diamond: First, the state government is spending my money – and others – as if they are on a shopping spree and cannot account for what they got. When I go to Albany, I will ask for a cap on government spending, which I feel is necessary in order to control what is spent.
What if any reforms would you bring to the MTA?
Schimel: I strongly believe that a safe and efficient mass transit system is critical to the region's economic health, and a major factor in our ability to attract and retain jobs. Many of my constituents depend on the LIRR to commute to New York City for work. That being said, it is quite evident that the MTA is wrought with waste and inefficiencies.
At a recent visit to the Great Neck Station I witnessed firsthand LIRR employees struggling to wash the descending steps onto the platform at the height of morning rush hour. Frustrated, they waited for a more appropriate time to work. Why would anyone send a work crew to clean a station during rush hour?
At a recent hearing in Garden City I implored the MTA board to seriously consider Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's report summarizing the 12 audits and 11 financial reports done by his office. He discovered many ways to save the Authority millions of dollars. One such measure is to assess how real estate transactions are conducted. It is my understanding that many land sales have been undertaken where the price of the property sold by the MTA was well under appraised value.
Diamond: The MTA is out of control. Raising fares after they already raised fares a year ago and they have the nerve to cut our service. When I go to Albany I will repeal the MTA Payroll Tax. I will ask that the MTA freeze all fare increases, and service cuts until an independent and thorough audit is complete. People need to get to work in the city, and the MTA is the source.
How would you get illegal handguns off the street?
Schimel: Long before I ever considered public service, my hallmark policy priority has been gun crime prevention. The key is to trace illegal handguns back to their primary source of purchasing. Nine out of ten illegal guns used in crime downstate come from outside of NY State. That means our state laws are working. The illegal guns come from states with weak gun laws. In upstate New York, it appears the majority of illegal guns come from within NY State.
My signature legislation, microstamping firearms, is supported by over 100 law enforcement agencies and elected officials of both parties from around the state. Shell casings from semi-automatic firearms will be micro engraved with an alphanumeric code, allowing police at a crime scene to quickly start the gun trace, giving law enforcement the tools it needs to catch criminals.
The bill requires no state spending, and will save taxpayers money as it reduces law enforcement's time and increases efficiency in investigating gun crimes. Microstamping allows police to be able to follow early leads before the trail of a murderer goes cold. It will also cut down on straw purchasing, a leading cause of illegal guns, whereby a person purchases a firearm for another individual who could not pass a background check.
Diamond: I would work with law enforcement agencies and continue with gun buy-back programs that are already in place. I will work with local communities as well as the PAL in preventing kids from getting involved in gangs, which would prevent kids from getting injured and will bring awareness.
How would you create jobs on Long Island?
Schimel: My first priority is keeping businesses and jobs rooted on Long Island. Long Island has many untapped resources to offer the business community, including a highly educated workforce.I am spearheading a new program that will bring together a comprehensive array of partners in government at the state and local levels, including the department of labor, and professional business organizations. The goal is to offer hands-on service, a business concierge, so to speak, to ensure retention of Long Island business and work to attract new industry, enabling Long Island to compete with other states like never before.
In addition, I helped negotiate extending the "Power for Jobs" program, which the Governor considered letting lapse when no permanent agreement could be reached with the legislature. The program provides low-cost power to businesses and not-for profits, and is essential to the survival of a number of manufacturing companies and health care providers here on Long Island. I will continue to fight for a permanent program.
Diamond: First, I would like to see whoever is out of work get back to work and I would do that by holding job fairs. I will bring jobs to my district by repealing the MTA tax which hurts local business's and offering incentives such as tax breaks to new businesses.