There were areas of agreement and points of sharp contrast between incumbent Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and challenger Steve Weissbard (R) when they sat down together at the TBR News Media main office to discuss their qualifications and plans for New York’s 4th Assembly District.
Route 347 and its ongoing reconstruction was high on the challenger’s list of important issues. The traffic and congestion are intolerable and detract from quality of life for area residents, and the redesign has been flawed, Weissbard said.
“New York is known as the least free state, the most regulated state, the highest tax rate state. We’re bleeding industry.”
— Steve Weissbard
“We need to get rid of the lights and add a third lane,” Weissbard said. “There should have been more overpasses.”
The incumbent said he is pleased with the changes to Route 347. Englebright noted the history of the road, which was originally supposed to be leg two of the Northern State Parkway extending all the way out to Orient.
“It never happened and we have a roadway that was confused by historical events,” he said. “The first proposals put forth by the [Department of Transportation] — going back more than a decade — would have recreated the Cross Bronx Expressway. Then Senator Jim Lack and I rejected those proposals and asked for something better. The something better is in the works.”
Weissbard has ideas for improving the state economy, which he said has been contracting for the last 40 years.
“New York is known as the least free state, the most regulated state, the highest tax rate state,” he said. “We’re bleeding industry.”
The answer, he added, quoting President Ronald Reagan, isn’t more government, but less government.
Englebright offered a different perspective.
“I can’t help but notice that the largest employer is government — and the largest entity, in fact, is in this district: the State University of New York — the largest employer in the bicounty region,” he said.
He argued that its presence has helped our community weather deep recessions that have affected other areas on Long Island much more profoundly.
On Common Core, however, they agreed completely.
“I think it undermines the fundamental relationship between teacher and student,” Weissbard said.
His Democratic counterpart was equally critical of the federal program.
“In the past, teaching was seen as an art,” Englebright said. “Now it’s trying to be seen as a quantifiable, robotic-like activity.”
“In the past, teaching was seen as an art. Now it’s trying to be seen as a quantifiable, robotic-like activity.”
— Steve Englebright
They both said they would like Common Core to be scrapped for a system that returns control to local school districts and teachers.
Englebright said he hopes voters will return him to Albany for a thirteenth term. He stands on his record of accomplishment on behalf of his constituents.
“I have made promises [in the past] and I have kept those promises,” he said.
Although his record on environmental issues gets lots of attention, he named other legislation that made him proudest.
“That the pertussis [whooping cough] legislation I sponsored with Dr. Shetal Shah has, according to his data, reduced the incidence of this killer childhood disease by at least 50 percent since the law’s passage in 2012,” he said.
Weissbard said he would like to bring a new perspective to the Assembly.
“As a county attorney, as a prosecutor, I’ve been in charge of both the juvenile drug court and, at times, the adult drug court, so I’ve seen the war on drugs on the Island at point blank range,” Weissbard said. “It’s a lot of first-hand knowledge that I would love to bring to the state level.”