Friday, October 22, 2010

Making Their Case Directly to the People by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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Assemblyman Mike Miller, top left, and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer face challenges from Republicans Donna Marie Caltabiano, top right, and Harold Paez. Voters will have to decide

Election season is in full swing, and several candidates in south Queens races made their pitch to voters at the Ozone Park Civic Association candidates night on Tuesday.

Some of the Republican and Democratic candidates for Assembly, state Senate and Congress shared their views with residents. Several of those running in local races did not attend the event.

In fact, the only race where voters got to hear from both candidates was in the 23rd Assembly District, where incumbent Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park) is facing Republican Harold Paez, a podiatrist who resides in the Rockaways.

Pheffer began by noting that many voters are frustrated that the state budget is often late, but she said in the case of this year’s, she and others in the Assembly did not agree with Gov. Paterson’s proposal and had to change parts of it.

“I couldn’t accept parts of the budget,” she said. “I won’t pass it just to say it’s on time.”

Pheffer cited the proposed tax on sugared soda drinks and cuts to the state Tuition Assistance Program as some of the governor’s plans that she didn’t agree with.

Pheffer also touted her constituent services efforts, saying her office will try and resolve any issue or problem a resident brings.

Pheffer said her legislative agenda reflects her commitment to helping the average resident, noting a bill she helped craft that provides for stricter penalties for identity theft.

Pheffer also praised the selection of Genting New York LLC to redevelop Aqueduct Racetrack into a dining and entertainment facility with 4,500 video lottery terminals.

Paez told the audience that he is running for Assembly because he wants to bring a significant change to the “dysfunctional” way Albany operates.

Paez noted the $9 billion state deficit as proof of the legislature’s reckless spending.

“That is not a good position for any state to be in,” he said.

Paez said despite being in one of the worst economic times since the Great Depression, the state government still had spending increases the last two years.

Paez said he supports a cap on property taxes, and pledged to vote against any new taxes if elected.

The candidate said he supports instituting more charter schools in the city, something he believes the legislature “was forced to do” in order to receive federal funds for the Race to the Top program.

Paez also took aim at Pheffer’s 20 years of service in the Assembly. He supports term limits and said his opponent has been part of the Albany culture for too long.

“I want to bring some common sense back to Albany,” he said. “We have to have the strength of will to change what is wrong.”

Also speaking at the event were state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who is facing a challenge from Republican Anthony Como.

Addabbo said the state has been through “two tough years” since his election to the Senate, but was proud that the legislature did not raise property taxes during that time.

“I was given a charge to cut the spending, and that’s what we are doing,” he said.

Addabbo also touted the Aqueduct project, and said he doesn’t think the racino will lead to an increase in crime in the area.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) told those in attendance that he is a “24-hour assemblyman” whose office is always open any time to a constituent with a problem.

Miller touted several pieces of legislation he has introduced, including one that would prevent registered sex offenders from working with children in any capacity.

Congressional candidate Asher Taub, a Republican challenging Democrat Greg Meeks in the 6th CD, said the number one issue facing the country is the federal budget deficit.

He said it is caused by borrowing on the part of the federal government since the 1930s, a trend that must stop.

Taub took aim at the healthcare reform law passed this year, which he termed “a disaster.”

His proposed ideas to reduce healthcare costs include changing the current law for medical malpractice actions so doctors can be sued only for gross negligence, not under the standard for recklessness. He said that it would cause doctors’ insurance premiums to significantly drop, and, coupled with reduction of unnecessary and expensive medical tests, could reduce health care expenditures by a significant margin.