For the second time in two years, the Assembly race in the 20th District is an open and contested battle, as Democrat Anthony Eramo, a Long Beach city councilman, and Atlantic Beach resident Missy Miller, a Republican, are the major party candidates. Joseph R. Naham is running on the Green Party ballot line.
The Herald asked Eramo and Miller questions focusing on issues vital to the residents of the 20th A.D., which encompasses Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence, Woodmere, Long Beach, Lido Beach, East Rockaway, Island Park, Oceanside and parts of Valley Stream.
Herald: How do you intend to fight corruption in Albany?
Anthony Eramo: We need to change the culture of Albany. We must seriously reform our campaign finance system, starting with closing the LLC loophole to limit how much influence special interests have in our elections and over our elected officials. We must also limit outside income for legislators, as the South Shore has seen how such conflicts of interest can corrupt our elected officials. I will be a full-time assemblyman, representing my constituents even when the Legislature isn’t in session. Finally, legislators who have been convicted of corruption should have their pensions stripped. I look forward to building on the work of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky to end corruption in Albany and here in Nassau County.
Melissa Miller: I believe the public is disillusioned with Albany and there needs to be a cleanup of the corruption. I think it begins with transparency. An elected official should communicate with their constituents openly as actions are being performed. There should be televised committee meetings and votes so that the public can see the process. I also believe in term limits for elected officials. Sheldon Silver was leader for 30 years! He became power-hungry and greedy. Finally, I believe that each legislative house should strive to be bipartisan, and allow every member to bring a bill to the floor.
Herald: What would you do to ease the tax burden in your district?
Eramo: South Shore residents face one of the highest tax rates in the nation, and for many families — including my own — the cost of living here is almost untenable. When my kids grow up, I want them to be able to continue living in the community we love. I will adamantly fight against any further tax increases in Albany to make this possible. I will always fight for more school funding, ensuring we get our fair share from Albany in order to stem the rise of school tax hikes. For me, these aren’t just campaign promises. As a Long Beach City councilman, I always voted to stay within the governor’s tax cap while still successfully balancing the city budget, even after the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Miller: Currently we do not get our fair share of funding from the state, so I would do whatever I could to fight to make sure we are getting increased state aid to improve our infrastructure, and especially to our school districts. I would look into tax exemptions for small business in my district, especially those that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. The small business owner is critical to the success of our community. I would absolutely fight to make sure that the 2 percent tax cap remains in place, and would support legislation that the tax cap becomes permanent.
Herald: How would you help ensure that funding comes through for residents and resiliency projects to protect against future storms?
Eramo: This issue is very personal for me. My family’s home was flooded by Hurricane Irene, and we were displaced from our home for 18 months after Sandy. Under my leadership as councilman, Long Beach was the first municipality to set up a residential rebuilding assistance program, which helped thousands of residents navigate the cumbersome New York Rising program. As an assemblyman, I would like to model this program for the entire South Shore.
I will also use the power of my office to hold insurance companies accountable for the full amount of residents’ claims and help constituents file complaints with the Insurance Department of New York, which oversees insurance companies. For municipalities, the state’s Community Reconstruction Plan is a great start, but its implementation has been too slow for our communities. As an assemblyman, I’ll fight to make sure CRP funds get to our communities so that the South Shore can finally put Superstorm Sandy behind us.
Miller: The existing programs that have failed so many of our neighbors — like NY Rising, which was designed to help residents — were a bureaucratic wreck that caused excessive delays in helping those that needed it. Not being able to get the funds that were supposed to be available to them is exactly the reason there are still families not in their homes or why homes are still under construction today. I feel the Legislature should provide an oversight administration to make sure that the funds are properly spent and quickly administered in the future.
Herald: The Common Core Learning Standards remain a divisive issue. Where do you stand on how they should be revised and used in the classroom?
Eramo: As a parent of two school-age children, I believe our schools should be held to rigorous standards. However, New York state got it wrong with the first iteration of the Common Core. The standards weren’t grade-level appropriate, and failed to reflect the recommendations of parents, students and educators in the field. Worst of all, it tied teacher evaluations to test performance, encouraging an unhealthy “teach to the test” mentality in our classrooms. I commend the governor for listening to the concerns of parents and educators by convening a review process. I encourage all to take part in the public comment period before it closes on Nov. 4.
Miller: If we must go on the assumption that Common Core will remain, then revisions must be made. I feel one area of revision should be in the inappropriate course material, especially for the younger students. Along with this is a need to include teacher-enrichment options with the course material. I also feel we need to examine the guidelines that are in place for completing an area of study. Many of these time constraints do not allow for the students to [gain] a sufficient grasp of the material. Finally, I strongly believe that the Common Core test results should not be used as the basis for teacher evaluations.