Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Baldeo Offers More Detailed Plans than the Others by AnnMarie Costella - Queens Chronicle

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Albert Baldeo, an attorney from Ozone Park, says he’s not running for City Council because he wants a new job, but because he has the skills to effect change and the experience to understand the community and its problems.

"We share common issues — a lack of city services, jobs and resources,” Baldeo said. “We all suffer similarly. And just as we have common issues, we have common dreams and goals. There is more that unites us than divides us.”

Baldeo will face off against Ruben Wills, Allan Jennings, Charles Bilal, Nicole Paultre Bell, Harpreet Toor, Martha Butler and Victor Babb for the 28th District seat formerly held by the late Tom White Jr.

Among his top priorities are job creation, healthcare, crime and seniors and he has plenty of ideas on how he will improve those areas if elected. Implementing his plans will take additional funding, and with a looming budget deficit, Baldeo says he will get the money by curbing Medicaid fraud, eliminating ineffective programs, increasing taxes on big corporations and cutting “unnecessary bureaucracy.”

To improve education, Baldeo says parents must be more involved in shaping policies and the way their children learn. He plans to fight for more funding to increase after-school programming, reduce class sizes and ensure that more quality teachers are hired. He believes that every pre-kindergarten student should have access to free all-day programming to increase the likelihood of long-term academic success. And he is advocating for added security measures to keep students safe.

“I want to make sure that all children get an equal opportunity to improve their quality of life,” Baldeo said. “I want to lift children out of poverty and give them a chance to reach their full potential. I have the ideas and the vision to make that happen.”

With the recent closures of three hospitals in Queens — Mary Immaculate, St. John’s, and Parkway, access to affordable, quality healthcare is on many resident’s minds. Baldeo hopes to partner with private agencies, doctors and medical volunteers to find out how to bring new hospitals and clinics into the district.

He would also like to expand health insurance coverage by getting more individuals to enroll in programs like Child Health Plus or Medicaid. He believes more people should be encouraged to purchase long-term care insurance by making matching funds, subsidies, tax credits and other incentives available.

Baldeo also supports the Paid Family Leave Act, which would let employees take up to six weeks off a year with limited pay to care for a new child or a sick relative.

Baldeo would combat Medicaid fraud by sponsoring legislation that would grant city enforcement agencies increased access to insurance files and expand their ability to prosecute cases to serve as a deterrent to other criminals.

Baldeo plans to expand the powers of the attorney general to investigate and prosecute more cases, providing extra staff if necessary. But that’s not the only type of illegal activity Baldeo plans to aggressively fight — sex crimes and gun violence are also high on his list.

“We need to build a better relationship between the police and the community,” Baldeo said. “We need to form neighborhood watch groups. People should feel comfortable going to the police and they should know that the information will be kept confidential.”

To curb gun violence, Baldeo says there should be more police officers patrolling the district, but in addition to that he would ban convicted felons from obtaining firearms, expand the ballistics identification data bank to assist law enforcement officers in tracking down guns used in crimes and require law enforcement officers to enter data regarding guns, bullets and shell casings found at crime scenes into the system.

Baldeo is in favor of life sentences for those who have perpetrated sex crimes against multiple victims and for those who have a previous felony sex crime conviction. He would prohibit offenders from working in all jobs that involve contact with children.

Seniors are an important group that Baldeo believes should not be neglected. He says he will work to keep senior centers open and offer more elder programming. “These people have spent a lifetime working and giving to the community,” he said. “They deserve improved access to services.”

Though a federal issue, Baldeo also weighed in on the St. Albans Veterans facility redevelopment plan, stating that he stands with those who oppose letting a developer build private housing on part of the site in exchange for modernizing the medical center there.

“People who have fought for our country should be treated with dignity and respect,” Baldeo said. “They need affordable housing, healthcare and hot meals.”

Baldeo is no stranger to politics. In addition to being an attorney he is a community advocate, democratic district leader, delegate to the Judicial Convention and county committeeman. He lost a Democratic primary challenge to White in 2005 and was defeated again the following year in a race against then-state Sen. Serphin Maltese, but he is confident that he will be victorious this time around.

“I am a breath of fresh air, because my candidacy is not controlled by special interests and lobbyists, but by a passion to serve our district,” Baldeo said. “Our district has been neglected for too long, and I will work hard for everyone in this district, so that we can have a better standard of life, and everyone can truly live the American dream.”