Meeting Recap – District Attorney Tim Sini

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Tim Sini spoke about what he has accomplished and what he is continuing to do as Suffolk County District Attorney. He was elected in November 2017 and took office the beginning of this year with a focus on internal reform. He said that meant getting rid of bad actors who did not serve the office properly. So far, Mr. Sini has made 220 personnel decisions; this included firings, reassignments, demotions and promotions.

In building up the DA’s office’s talent pool, Mr. Sini has hired experienced prosecutors as well as entry-level hires, whom he sends to training programs to prepare for their new roles.

As DA, he has added new units to the office: the Gang Unit, which seeks to investigate and prosecute gangs, including MS-13, and works with the U.S. Attorney General’s office; the Enhanced Prosecution Unit, in which they collect and disseminate evidence in order to prosecute the impact drivers of crime; and the Environmental Crimes Unit. Mr. Sini said the latter unit needed to be formed because the illegal dumping of solid waste and construction materials has gone unchecked for a very long time in Suffolk.

The purpose of the prosecutor, Mr. Sini said, is not to be an advocate, but to administer justice. When putting a case together, the DA’s office is obligated to share any and all evidence with the defense to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Under the Brady Rule, the prosecution is required to hand over any evidence to the defense that may benefit the defendant. The purpose is to make sure there is less liability to committing violations of discovery and to take away the role of gamesmanship because the goal is to distribute justice, not win the case. When the defendant is free, it is usually not because they are innocent, but because the prosecutor may have withheld evidence that would have benefitted the defense.

The three other areas the DA’s office has focuses on, according to Mr. Sini, are drugs, human trafficking and public integrity. His office is focusing on targeting drug dealers; for nonviolent drug dealers, his office would provide diversion therapy rather than prosecute them. In discussing human trafficking, the victims are either forced into the sex trade or placed into slave labor. He said these trafficking victims are either homeless or suffer from drug addiction and mental illness; those forced into prostitution will receive treatment instead of facing arrest, according to Mr. Sini. Since November 2017, his office has prosecuted 300 cases, compared to zero under the previous DA. Mr. Sini also said he is ridding the county government of corruption, in which taxpayers and business owners pay the price.

National Grid President John Bruckner

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John Bruckner spoke about what National Grid is doing to provide better service for its customers.
In his presentation, Mr. Bruckner said that National Grid US has 4 million gas and electric customers and has 8,000 employees (4,000 of them work in downstate New York). In addition, New York businesses represent 60% of National Grid’s US presence.

National Grid is investing $3 billion between 2017 and 2019 to modernize and enhance the resiliency, reliability, safety and capacity of its natural gas system, which includes replacing 585 miles of aging gas pipelines. In addition, the utility currently has a new state-of-the-art gas control center on Long Island and two major liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Holtsville and Greenpoint to meet the demand on peak winter days.

Mr. Bruckner discussed two major projects: the Rockaway Lateral and Newtown Creek. For the former, National Grid is looking to tap into the lateral off the Rockaways and deliver the gas to Long Island. That project is currently in its permitting stage and is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. For Newtown Creek, Mr. Bruckner said he is looking for deliver renewable energy sources, such as biogas, which can be produced at the Newtown Creek’s wastewater facility.

Other new facilities include a best-in-class gas control center located in Melville, a Consumer Advocacy Center in Brentwood and the MetroTech Sustainability Center. These new facilities, Mr. Bruckner said, are focused on safety, customer satisfaction and cost.

In 2016, National Grid launched its Neighborhood Expansion program, in which National Grid customers would get their neighbors to sign up with the utility and convert to gas. It started in East Hills and has since expanded to Dix Hills, Hampton Bays, East Islip and Stony Brook. In East Hills, 1,000 customers were connected, resulting in more than $1 million in energy savings.

Mr. Bruckner added that National Grid is taking part in New York’s 80×50 Challenge, in which the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050, and REV (Refining Energy Vision), another state initiative to make a “greener” economy by creating more renewable energy sources; the No. 1 issue concerning this initiative, Mr. Bruckner said, is affordability.

National Grid has also been involved in the community and the educational sector, according to Mr. Bruckner. Some of the schools and organizations in which National Grid is involved include Brooklyn Technical High School, Stony Brook University, Girls Inc., Energy Tech and the State University of New York.

Meeting Recap – Perry Gershon, Candidate for 1st Congressional District

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Perry Gershon, who is running as a Democrat for the 1st Congressional District seat against Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin, explained his campaign platform to those in attendance. As a business owner – having owned and operated a sports bar and a commercial real estate lending firm – he said he never thought about running for office, but when Donald Trump was elected president and saw the policies Trump was implementing, he decided to run because Long Islanders needed someone to stand up for American ideals and against Trump.

His No. 1 issue is healthcare. If elected, he said he will work to maintain coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, as mandated by the Affordable Healthcare Act. Under Trump’s healthcare program, Mr. Gershon said, those people with pre-existing conditions lost coverage. He also wants to see a reduction in prescription drug costs and provide Medicare for everyone through a single-payer system. He said large high-tax states such as New York and California would be able to pay for such a system and many people want to see single-payer in place, but Congress refuses to bring it to the floor.

In his support of a single-payer system, Mr. Gershon said administering care through Medicare would cost 17 times less than through a private, for-profit healthcare system. In addition, patients can see doctors sooner and not to have to visit the emergency room, which can be very expensive. If fewer people go to the emergency room, he said, the government would spend less money on healthcare.

He believes that healthcare is not a privilege, but a right. He said everyone needs healthcare coverage and any service, such as healthcare, that benefits the people should not be provided in order to incur a profit.

If elected, Mr. Gershon said, he would call for mandatory background checks prior to purchasing a gun and close loopholes that make it easier to people to obtain guns illegally. He said, since the Marjorie Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, the cries for gun safety and gun control have become louder, but Congress refuses to do anything about it because they are too attached to the gun lobby.

In fixing Long Island’s economy, Mr. Gershon said that, if you want to grow workers’ wages, you need to fix the infrastructure. That includes fixing the highways, improving the public transportation system and upgrading cell phone transmissions that will improve business communications. He said this has already been done in California and Boston, Massachusetts, with successful results. If the Democrats take both chambers of Congress, he said, they will force Trump to uphold his campaign promise to fix the nation’s infrastructure.

On the issue of immigration, Mr. Gershon said that DREAMers must be granted citizenship since they came into this country as children, through no fault of their own. He does not want to see children separated from their families and wants border enforcement done by adding more patrol officers instead of building walls. He does not believe in open borders and says ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) plays a major role in immigration enforcement, but does not want the officers terrorizing immigrants and their families. For those who are undocumented, Mr. Gershon said they should pay taxes but should not receive instant citizenship. He wants to see comprehensive immigration reform like the “Gang of Eight” bill that was introduced by the late U.S. Senator John McCain in 2004, only to be killed by Congress.

Lastly, he said that, as Congressman, he will make himself accessible to his constituents by holding weekly face-to-face “town hall” meetings, not from remote locations, and he will reach out to the other side of the aisle to get things done in Washington. He said it can be done, like during the 1980s, when a Republican president (Ronald Reagan) and a Democratic House Speaker (Tip O’Neill) were able to compromise on certain issues so they could get more accomplished.

Mr. Gershon said it is time for change in the Democratic Party. He said those currently in Democratic leadership are too old and called for the removal of Nancy Pelosi as House speaker. He said his party should make room for a new group of people, who will bring with them new ideas on how government should work.