For the second time, Democrat Mike Reid, of Merrick, is challenging longtime incumbent Republican Assemblyman Dave McDonough, also of Merrick, for his 14th District seat.
The Herald asked both candidates the same four questions on issues that face South Shore residents, in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election.
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?
McDonough: I would support increased hardening of entrances to all schools, the hiring of school resource officers for each school and providing additional school funding to accomplish this, without including such expense in the 2-percent tax cap.
Reid: I support what Nassau County police are doing to insure the safety of our schools. They are well prepared to respond to defend the public, whether at a school or any other public place. So, no, I don’t believe armed school guards are right for Nassau or the 14th District. However, I respect and recognize that the decision to implement an armed-guard program must remain up to communities, and the state should not stand in the way. Safety in general must not focus on getting more guns into more hands. Violence prevention is the key to security. Data on early intervention has shown that when schools identify and intervene with children showing aggressive behavior, that child is less likely to have problems later in life. The same can be said for targeting bullying in our schools. We must involve children and parents. I support state funding for specialized intervention aimed at improving self-control, a positive self-image and improving social skills. In an ever-disconnected digital world, we need to help kids through their formative years — to teach them how to fit in and work with others, and teamwork as a core value. We need to focus on supporting and funding anti-bullying programs in our schools. Community health experts have long known that addressing mental health and social-health issues early will reduce violence and gang activity, and issues with addiction and the associated costs later in life.
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. 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?
McDonough: I support legislation that would require insurance companies to increase the time limit of coverage for rehabilitation and treatment of addiction.
Reid: Individuals with a recognized substance use disorder often have limited or no access to care covered by their health insurance. The legislature must focus on enacting legislation to require health insurance providers to cover a minimum of 90 days of in-patient treatment for patients diagnosed with SUD. I support immediate passage of this legislation. But the first 90 days are only a start: Recovery needs to continue on a patient’s discharge to a community-based treatment program. We need laws with real oversight and guidance to out-patient treatment programs and “sober homes.” Also, laws which will require sober homes to operate within strict guidelines, and require inspections to ensure each home meets health, safety, cleanliness and ethical standards. We have seen some progress, which is good, but we can do better.
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?
McDonough: I believe there should be more investigative task forces, like those currently established in Nassau and Suffolk counties, to identify and prosecute MS-13 members who are involved in criminal activities. Most importantly, we need to increase information at all school levels, and provide education to all students regarding the dangers of MS-13 and its recruitment efforts.
Reid: The simple answer is yes, I believe that the legislature must support, and fund local efforts focused on gang prevention. We must support programs that strengthen families and support schools, programs that involve and improve the local community. We need programs that unite teachers and parents together, and teach students interpersonal and communication skills. Kids join gangs for a variety of reasons — protection, respect, money or just social status. They want to fit in, and the gang becomes the place where they feel they do. But we can address this. At-risk youth are the kids who struggle in school. They are the kids who just don’t seem to fit in. Kids who develop aggressive or violent behavior are showing a clear sign of a kid in trouble. These are the same warning signs for kids who may be at risk for substance abuse and mental health issues. Funding programs that support our youth will have benefits, not only on gang prevention, but in many other areas as well. Building a good foundation is key to future success.
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?
McDonough: My plan is to support more affordable housing to help prevent the exodus of young people and continue to increase job opportunities in the region.
Reid: I will focus on what I can have an impact on — creating good jobs and lowering taxes. Long Island has become a center for advanced healthcare, technology and higher education, all of which provide the jobs we need here. This is the future, and we need to invest in it. By expanding the SUNY colleges, here on Long Island, to educate our kids for these good, high-paying jobs, we will provide them with a pathway to success, a better paycheck and a way to stay here on Long Island. Albany must also focus on the high cost of living on Long Island. Our taxes are too high. Most of your tax bill goes to support your local school district. We have excellent schools — that is a large part of why this is a desirable place to live. However, taxpayers are not receiving their fair share of state aid to help fund our local schools. Upstate districts receive significantly more aid. This is just not fair. I will fight to bring real tax relief to my neighbors by supporting legislation to correct this. Albany needs to lift some of the burden of the cost of education off the shoulders of Long Island homeowners. Doing so will lower local taxes and help open the path to first time home buyers.
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