The race for District 17 in the New York State Assembly has John Mikulin vying for the seat just shy of six months into his tenure after winning a special election in April. This November, Democrat Kimberly Snow, 51, of Bethpage, is challenging the 30-year old Levittown resident.
The Herald asked both candidates a series of questions that pertain to the district’s coverage area, which includes East Meadow, Seaford, Wantagh, Bethpage, Farmingdale, Levittown, Massapequa and Uniondale.
Herald: What do you plan to do to make for safer schools? Are you in favor of armed guards in schools? If so, how would you propose implementing them?
Mikulin: As a State Assemblyman, I have sponsored a law that would provide teachers with a device to lockdown their classroom in case of an emergency to make schools safer. This law provides for doorstops, or any improvised or manufactured devices designed to prevent a door from being opened during this type of an emergency. As for armed guards, current law states that a police officer can be armed on school grounds in New York with the permission of the educational institution. I support the proposal in the State Senate to have a police officer posted outside of every school. I also support school districts working with law enforcement to provide various school safety programs. There is no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all to school safety. Every community, district and school have different layouts. What works for one area may not work for all schools. Local control needs to be given to school districts and their law enforcement community partners so they can implement what will work best to keep our children safe.
Snow: I am in favor of tighter door security measures, police station video monitoring, in-school video monitoring, as well as the use of metal detectors. I am not [in favor of armed guards]. It is my belief that the presence of guns only increases the likelihood of more violence. Statistics show, for example, that in 2016 3,733 of the 4,900 Commercial American banks were robbed, and only 177 had armed guards on sight. (Leaf, C. (2018, February) “Why Armed Guards at Schools don’t Work”, Fortune Magazine) The odds of a violent event triple, from 4 percent to 12 percent if an armed guard is present. I would not implement them.
Herald: While the death toll from the opioid epidemic appears to have finally turned a corner and begun to slowly decline, there are still too many young people dying from addiction, which medical journals now deem a disease. A big part of the problem is lack of access to treatment due to a disparity in health insurance coverage. What would you do to try and change this?
Mikulin: One of the biggest challenges in addressing the challenge of the opioid epidemic is providing for additional insurance coverage so addicts can get the treatment they need. Current law limits coverage required for detoxification and rehabilitation services. I have sponsored legislation, A.4721, to extend coverage. This bill requires a minimum seven-day coverage period for detoxification and a minimum thirty-day coverage period for rehabilitation services. The bill extends requirements to individual and group health insurance policies.
Snow: Many providers have learned to get services approved from insurance companies for services that are needed after detox has occurred. There is, however, a lack of access to care for the detoxing of opioid users. Currently, alcohol and benzodiazepine users will be admitted to emergency rooms and can be treated, but opioid withdrawal is not deemed life-threatening. Recent initiatives in other counties include having ER doctors waivered so they can prescribe Suboxone. I would support legislation that enables doctors in emergency rooms to admit opioid addicted individuals and effectively treat them with Medication Assisted Treatment with effective new drugs like Suboxone. I also whole-heartedly support immediate increased drug and drug use education at the elementary through high school level, as well as community awareness workshops and NARCAN training.
Herald: What do you think can be done on a state level, and in communities, to stop the violence of MS-13? Do you support putting money into more preventative programs to slow or stop recruitment?
Mikulin: MS-13 needs to be combated on all levels. The devastation that MS-13 and similar gangs cause cannot be ignored and needs to be a top priority in Albany. One way to frustrate gang recruitment is to provide grants for job training and placement programs. When people find good paying jobs they are less likely to join a gang. Furthermore, additional police resources are needed for cracking down on gang violence. It is critical for the Police to work with ICE to make sure that those gang members who are here illegally are deported. Also, I support legislation such as creating a class E felony of gang sexual assault, and creating a statewide gang database. Passing such legislation will assist law enforcement in fighting gang related activity.
Snow: Studies show that many of the young people that join these gangs [join] for protection because they feel outcast and victimized in their community. Albany needs to make more funds available to continue placing more programs in low income and high crime areas where MS-13 is more likely to thrive. Presently law enforcement and ICE are doing everything they can to find and prosecute these gang members. Public awareness has been heightened do to local news coverage, and local government needs to follow through with community forums to educate the public on how to identify offenders in the community and report to police. I believe that more arrests and deportation of violent gang offenders is one part of the solution. Making our youth less susceptible to recruitment is the other part. After-school programs, vocational training, educational efforts, and counseling services will help young people find the safety and security they require.
Herald: What is your plan to keep young people living on Long Island after they move out of their parent's homes and/or graduate college?
Mikulin: The brain drain is a significant problem for Long Island’s future. Young people are having a difficult time living on Long Island because of high taxes and job availability. We need to provide incentives to businesses to produce an environment where higher paying jobs are offered. To do this, I will continue to support legislation that cuts the red tape and unnecessary regulations in Albany and makes Long Island business friendly. I am fighting for additional school aid for Long Island to combat property taxes. Transit-oriented development has helped areas such as Mineola and Farmingdale thrive. However, the new housing trends to be market rate, which is too expensive for young people to afford. We need to also provide incentives for next-generation housing so it will be more affordable for our young people to stay here.
Snow: It is important for state legislature to focus on providing funding to make it easier for private interests as well as towns and villages to build affordable rental homes and create areas that will attract younger people. As Long Island runs out of land, I believe ADU, or Accessory Dwelling Units, can provide significant relief for this problem if local codes are relaxed. Parking requirements would need to be relaxed and other parking alternatives like ride sharing should be explored. I would support the creation of incentives to establish accessory apartments such as an amnesty program for existing dwellings and a loan fund for qualified homeowners.