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Brooklyn’s part of the 60th Assembly District may hold the key to victory for the candidates, this November 4th.
The race — in a district that includes Bay Ridge as well as a swath of Staten Island extending from the Verrazano Bridge — pits two-year incumbent Janele Hyer-Spencer, a Democrat, against Republican candidate Joseph Cammarata, a retired police detective.
Two years ago, when Hyer-Spencer took the open seat in the bi-borough district, defeating Republican Anthony Xanthakis, it was her win in Bay Ridge that gave her the margin of victory.
At a recent candidate’s forum held by the Bay Ridge Council on Aging at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Hyer-Spencer — running late from a Staten Island presentation on domestic violence prevention for Domestic Violence Prevention Month – made the case for her re-election.
For one thing, Hyer-Spencer contended, she had kept the promises she made when she was running for election the first time.
“I promised to go to Albany to be a strong voice for health care that is a right not a privilege in the state of New York,” she recalled. “We made great strides, starting with Child Health Plus. We’ve now reached almost universal coverage for children in the state.
“I recognize there’s a great deal more to do,” Hyer-Spencer went on, “but this is a strong first step.”
In the arena of education, Hyer-Spencer went on, she had become, “Your vociferous advocate to make sure we had $1.3 billion in state aid returned to our schools. That did a couple of things,” she went on, including expanding universal pre-kindergarten and lowering class size.
Looking ahead at the likely budget cuts that the state will enact, given the reduction in revenue from Wall Street, Hyer-Spencer added, “I will be a strong voice, going forward, to ensure that we won’t have cuts in state aid to education.”
Thirdly, Hyer-Spencer pointed out, she had worked hard to increase protections in the arenas of domestic violence and child sex abuse.
With respect to convicted sexual predators, she said that she had, “Worked with some of the leadership” to produce legislation “that had real teeth, so that violent sexual predators go to jail and stay there, where they belong.”
In addition, she told the group, “I took the lead in rectifying some of the antiquated domestic violence laws.” Among the changes, said Hyer-Spencer, “We removed service fees on orders of protection.” In addition, she said, family court is “now open to individuals in intimate relationships and dating relationships.”
Finally, Hyer-Spencer noted, the law had been revised to allow “victims to testify via closed circuit TV,” a change, she said, that “will bring up our prosecution levels and, I hope, decrease the incidence of domestic violence.”
For his part, Cammarata told voters why they should, in his view, support him. A Vietnam veteran and a retired police detective, Cammarata pointed out that he had spent decades serving the people of the United States in general, and New Yorkers in particular.
Issues that concern him, said Cammarata, include crime prevention. To that end, he contended that the beat cop should come back.
“When was the last time you saw the police walk on your street?” he asked. “It’s very expensive, but it’s the most effective type of policing. When I walked the beat, I knew who the troublemakers were.”
In the arena of senior services, Cammarata contended, “It’s not so much quantity as quality. I’d like to see licensing for health care workers,” he told his listeners.
Another issue that Cammarata touched upon was the discount that veterans get on real estate taxes. That it is “less than five percent,” he asserted, is “shameful.” Also unfair, he said, is the fact that the discount dies with the veteran. “When I go to Albany, I will propose a bill to continue the discount for the surviving spouse.”
Transportation was another area Cammarata mentioned. “I would enhance bus service, take a look at increasing stops, increasing the amount of buses. I’d love to see another ferry come back to 69th Street,” he told the group.
Cammarata concluded his comments with a reminiscence of former House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill, who he called “my best Democratic friend.”
O’Neill, Cammarata said, had once told him a story of having a neighbor not vote for him when he first ran for office, because O’Neill hadn’t asked. “So,” he told his listeners, “I’m asking you. I want your support in November.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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