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Barack Obama

Congressman supports end of ‘dreamer’ policy, preaches sensible border security fix

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Alex Petroski

The heated debate over immigration is nothing new in the United States, or in Suffolk County for that matter, but the discussion has been enflamed and accelerated by a decision President Donald Trump (R) floated, walked back and ultimately left in limbo regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program this week. Zeldin addressed challenges with improving immigration policy during an exclusive interview with TBR News Media at the end of August, and also weighed in on the possible phaseout of DACA this week.

The DACA program was enacted in 2012 during former President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration as a temporary solution to the dilemma about how to handle the immigration status of individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age, rendering their decision to cross the border as out of their hands. The policy granted “dreamer” status to roughly 800,000 individuals, retroactively. This week, Trump announced via Twitter his intentions to phase out the program within six months, though few details were offered, and since then the president has backtracked, signaling to Congress he would like for them to come up with a solution.

“Many of these children involuntarily came to our country very young, have been here for a long time, go through our education system, love our country and are looking to stay here and greatly contribute to our economy and nation’s future,” Zeldin said in a statement. “What I struggle with the most is how you can possibly allow someone illegally in our country to be given preference over someone who is not in our country solely because that individual abroad is following the rules and respecting our laws, and as a result, they are not yet here.”

“If you want to come to America and pursue the American Dream, follow the rules.”

— Lee Zeldin

The decision by Trump has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle for both the seeming lack of compassion for the group of mostly young people who have made a life in the U.S. and know the country as their home, and for the flippant nature of making the announcement on social media. Zeldin said it is a challenging issue because dreamers have established a life in America and were brought here involuntarily, though he said allowing them special treatment creates an unfair dynamic for those attempting to come to the U.S. legally.

“I support legal immigration,” he said. “I oppose illegal immigration. If you want to com se to America and pursue the American Dream, follow the rules. If you commit a crime and are deported, don’t come back. Every nation’s backbone is its rule of law. It is great to pursue the American Dream and to consider yourself a dreamer and everyone in the United States legally should consider themselves dreamers.”

Zeldin said in his statement and in August he would be open to discussion for ways to repair what he said he views as a flawed immigration system.

Referring to Trump’s campaign rhetoric and statements he has made since taking office, Zeldin said he wished the conversation on immigration and border security could get past “build a wall” versus “don’t build a wall.” He criticized Trump for a lack of publicly stated details regarding a border wall, citing natural barriers like rivers and mountains, which already secure large portions of the U.S.-Mexican border.

“If we sat down with [Trump] and had a conversation and he says, ‘We should put a 30-foot wall in the middle of the Rio Grande,’ that would be different,” Zeldin said. The 1st CD representative said he would be in favor of strengthening existing fencing in areas, building a new barrier in vulnerable areas and even utilizing some electric fencing to secure the border.

When asked if he thought Trump had the ability to advance immigration reform in a bipartisan fashion, Zeldin said he wasn’t sure because he hadn’t spoken directly with Trump on the issue, and his public statements lack specifics.

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What would happen if it rained on our intransigent politicians in Washington?

Well, for starters, the Democrats would all vote “no.” They’re voting “no” on everything anyway, so the rain probably wouldn’t affect them.

While some Republicans like Sen. John McCain would immediately acknowledge the rain, others would call it a nonstory. When the GOP couldn’t discount the reality that people were getting wet, they would decide it was President Obama’s fault because he didn’t stop the rains when he had a chance. The Republicans would find some regulation, which they suggested Obama enacted, that allowed or encouraged the rain, and would immediately set about doing the important work of undoing that regulation.

Sure, Obama knew about rain in Washington when he was president, but he didn’t enact a single policy or procedure that could have prevented the wet stuff from ruining barbecues and costing people money. He ignored an important proposal many years ago to put a retractable dome over Washington that would have created jobs and saved people from getting wet.

The New York Times would blame President Trump, his administration, his family and the Russians, especially President Putin, because all are at fault for everything. They probably planned during their meetings last year to distract everyone from their collusion to cause it to rain just when everyone was getting ready for a picnic. The Times would find some damning email in which someone joked about the rain, or in which the word “rain” might have been a code word, and would remind everyone that rain is synonymous with “pain,” which the paper is feeling from this new administration.

Competing polls would begin as soon as the first drops fell. One poll, which the current administration and Republicans would ignore and discredit, would suggest that even Trump voters are frustrated by the rain and feel that Trump promised them it would never rain again, except at night when they were sleeping. They would be upset that the billionaire Man of the People didn’t protect them when they wanted to attend their daughter’s softball game or when they wanted to go on a company picnic to a site that had previously been off-limits during the Obama administration because it was a protected area where young birds and fish were breeding.

At the same time, another poll that the Democrats would ignore would indicate that Trump voters were thrilled that they didn’t have to spend money watering lawns that, thanks to the new and limited Environmental Protection Agency, they could spray with a wide range of cheaper, job-creating pesticides that may or may not harm some people and a few turtles. This poll would suggest that these voters would be thrilled if the rain continued strategically through 2020, when they would be even happier to vote again for Trump.

Trump might tweet about how sad the rain was for Democrats and might suggest that it would be raining even harder if Hillary Clinton was president. Trump might engage in a twitter war with Chelsea Clinton or Rosie O’Donnell.

CNN would cover the twitter war extensively and would then claim that the entire discussion was a distraction from the real issues, which they would cover in a small box in the corner of their webpage.

Stocks would continue to rise as investors bet that people would need to spend more money on umbrellas in the short term, and on new food for other picnics some time in the near future when the rain stopped.

When the skies cleared, everyone would take credit before heading to the beach, unless they lived in New Jersey and were thwarted by an
unpopular governor.

File photo

By Kevin Redding

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, local elected officials weighed in on the occupants of the Oval Office who inspired them to do what they do.

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) – Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush

“It would have to be Ronald Reagan. He was the first president that I became familiar with as a young adult, in terms of my interest in politics. He had such a unique ability to communicate a conservative message to the country in a way that wasn’t divisive, in a way that was inspiring and uplifting, and so I really admire him for that and so many other things.

And, of course, George H.W. Bush, who took over the Oval Office after Reagan. He was the first politician I ever helped campaign for and that was during his re-election effort in which he lost to Bill Clinton. That same year Rick Lazio ran for Congress against Thomas Downey and I got pretty heavily involved in volunteering. If it hadn’t been for that, honestly, I would not be sitting here today.

From that experience, I met a former county legislator I ended up working for for a short period of time and he introduced me to county government and lots of different folks in the party, so I would say: purely from an inspirational point of view, it would be Reagan and in terms of the one president that really motivated me to get actively involved in politics, it was George H.W. Bush.”:

Legislator Al Krupski (D) – George Washington

“I think he was someone that really believed in a cause. In his case, the cause was an independent America and he was willing to sacrifice his time and his family’s time to make that happen. He certainly took great personal risks as a general and, again, as president, he sacrificed his time and the rest of his life was dedicated towards the country.

The way he was able to handle power was admirable. The rest of the world thought he was going to become a dictator, and he could’ve, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to be the dictator. He wanted America to be a democracy; he believed in that. I’ve always liked history and I’ve always read about history and been [fascinated] by him pretty much my whole life. If you look at his cabinet, he surrounded himself with people with diverse backgrounds and ideologies and I’ve always listened to people with different viewpoints. I think that kind of mentality as a leader is important: to not just have a bunch of “yes men” but being able to listen to people with different viewpoints.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) John F. Kennedy

“Kennedy had a sense of humor, had a sense of history, and he learned from his mistakes. His mistake early in the administration was to follow through with Eisenhower’s decision that he did not execute well, with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and he learned from that. I think that’s why he was so successful thereafter when, in 1962, a year and a half after, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he was able to diffuse that despite the urging that we invade or bomb Cuba. He avoided that and avoided a crisis and potentially a World War.

I was also extremely impressed with his June 1963 speech at American University about how we all live on one planet and talked about peace being a much nobler goal while we were in the middle of the Cold War and he could see beyond that, so I think he had vision.

Obviously as a person, he had a lot of shortcomings, which a lot of people have dwelled on since the time of his death, but I think as a man and as a leader, people wanted to follow him and I think he was a good president. I knew if he had lived, we would not have been in the Vietnam War. He spoke against getting involved. It was sad to see him go, because in going, the policies changed dramatically, and when we changed leaders, we committed an entire generation to war and turned a lot of people into cynics against their government.

[Inspired by him], I try not to rush to judgment, I try to step back and put things in context and have a sense of history. As someone who has all my degrees in history, I try to put things in context and that helps a lot.”

Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) – Barack Obama

“I’ve been in the Legislature for six years, and got elected in 2011, which was then-president Obama’s third year in office. I had been a physician and I was a big participant in getting involved in the hope and change … Obama being the first Black American president was inspirational for me as one of the few Black American elected officials.

I appreciated the fact that he started out working in the community, was someone that had all the education and training, and was a community organizer. I believe he exhibited the qualities of service and compassion for our fellow man and for those who have the smallest voice, and I believe in hard work and education as well. He had a very clear message that resonated and it got a lot of people involved, and I think that was transformative.

I don’t want it to appear that just because he was black, he encouraged me because I’m black. That had some significance but what I appreciated most was his character. He was a slow and steady hand and he brought qualities of dignity and respect … I also admired the way he conducted himself personally with his family.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson) – Barack Obama

“I think Obama, who was a law school professor, intimately understood how to use the law to help others and he actually worked his way up through government, so he took all the steps and is a bottom-up leader. Obama being an activist and community organizer really impressed me. I think it’s important that we [as elected officials] are in the community, and talk to people face-to-face about their issues. I think that he is, arguably, the most eloquent, dignified, and diplomatic president of my time and I try to emulate his qualities.”

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) – Ronald Reagan

“He was a fiscally conservative guy who was socially moderate; he would try to save money and have less government … and keep government out of things. That’s what I believe: we shouldn’t be involved in a lot of these things.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) – Harry S. Truman

“Harry Truman’s my favorite president. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things and demonstrated that you can reach the highest levels of our government while maintaining your integrity. More than 20 years ago, I read David McCullough’s book “Truman” and it was one of the best political biographies I’ve ever read. When I served on active duty in the U.S. Army, I was based in Missouri — which is the home state of Truman — and I visited his home and library in Independence.

What was inspiring to me, and it really represents what our country is about, was that anyone can be president and that you can reach the highest levels of our government and really maintain your integrity. Truman’s honesty really impressed me.”

Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) – Abraham Lincoln

“If you were in my office, whether in Albany or here in the district, you would see lots of pictures of Abraham Lincoln. When you’re growing up and you’re reading about different presidents, the idea of Lincoln being kind of a frontiersman and the way he grew up and the stories about him are very exciting. As you get older and you start looking into Lincoln’s life, you see the kind of person that he is. He cared very deeply about people and if you look at photos of Lincoln, you could see the deep lines, as some people call “worry lines,” because he cared so much. During the Civil War, he visited wounded soldiers and was very touched by their lives.

I have great concern for people and try to be very helpful to people, and I think Lincoln certainly reinforces those goals.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) – Ronald Reagan

“Reagan was the president I admired most. When you’re an elected official, I think you have to have two great traits: good decision-making skills and the ability to articulate the message you want to get across to people in an effective, understandable and inspiring way, [which he had]. Reagan came into office in 1981, a point in our country’s history where, internationally, we were in the middle of the Cold War, just got done with the Iranian hostage situation, and the economy wasn’t doing well and the morale in the country was at an all-time low — so he had a lot that he was getting ready to take on. He lowered taxes, attacked the problems we had, deregulated the government and opened up the economy, which triggered a boom throughout the decade. He stood up and brought pride back into being American.”

Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) – Abraham Lincoln

“First of all, he was honest, he truly preserved the unity of our nation and he freed the slaves. He was brought into office during what was probably one of our nation’s first economic crises, and he dealt with the Civil War, dealt with issues of taxation and imports and exports, and handled it in a thoughtful, intellectual way. Those were difficult times and he made our nation what it is.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) – John F. Kennedy

“His presidency changed America. I think so many presidents bring so many different skillsets, and Kennedy believed in America, was passionate about America, put people to work, held the line on taxes, and was a compassionate person. Then there’s the whole history of Kennedy and how he was raised and groomed, and how his life was tragically cut short, and I think that adds an air to his [legacy] as well.”

 

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Jonathan Berlin, second from left, smiles with other participants at a recent Nassau Suffolk Water Commissioners’ Association meeting. Photo from Allison Gayne

Water commissions and cybersecurity threats may not sound like they have much in common, but to one Smithtown resident the two are intertwined.

Jonathan Berlin recently spoke to water commissioners from districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties about measures that should be applied to the water supply industry and Long Island suppliers.

“There has been a growing concern of cybersecurity threats in the last few years,” Berlin said in a phone interview.

The Smithtown resident works as an information technology consultant for Total Technology Solutions, a computer service firm based on the North Shore. He said his goal is to bring a better sense of awareness to organizations of threats they face and help them limit their risk.

“[Water commissions] are a target, and I do a lot of work with local governments,” Berlin said. He also said clients he has worked with have seen threats from Russia, China and more.

“Some [hackers] just want to see what they can get through to,” he said. But other security breaches can access emails, contact lists, spread computer viruses and more.

“Our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property.”
— Barack Obama

Cybersecurity is not just a local issue. According to news reports, a county in Nevada came under attack this past March for a breach, and in 2011, a city in Texas suffered as well.

“Now that we see this is a risk, we need to put a plan into place,” Berlin said.

President Barack Obama (D) announced a Cybersecurity National Action Plan in February to take a series of short-term and long-term actions to improve our nation’s cybersecurity posture.

“America’s economic prosperity, national security, and our individual liberties depend on our commitment to securing cyberspace and maintaining an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet,” Obama said in a White House press statement. “Our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property. I believe if we address [threats] effectively, we can ensure that the internet remains an engine for economic growth and a platform for the free exchange of ideas.”

The commission is made up of 12 individuals from the business and educational fields, and they are expected to make a presentation in December with recommendations to the nation for actions that can be taken over the next decade to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sector.

Berlin said he and his company try to penetrate their client’s websites when they are working to improve their cybersecurity and test how vulnerable the municipality is.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, internet users should always be wary of clicking on links and opening attachments in emails. To keep a system safe, anti-virus software should always be up to date as well.

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An anti-Common Core rally in Smithtown. File photo

By Gary D. Bixhorn & Susan A. Schnebel

After years of legislative gridlock in Washington, President Barack Obama has signed the Every Child Succeeds Act into law and called it a “Christmas miracle.” The bill had strong bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Educators across the country have eagerly awaited the passage of this bill, which replaces the 15-year-old Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act and the subsequent Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program. In combination, these two initiatives significantly expanded the federal government’s role in educational matters traditionally subject to state and local control. It’s been New York State’s implementation of these overreaching federal initiatives that’s generated so much dissent within the educational community and ultimately resulted in a public revolt in the form of the opt-out movement.

It appears, based on the new federal legislation, which scales back federal involvement and restores state and local control, that our leaders have learned an important lesson: A parent will not let their child’s education become an academic research project or a campaign platform. Parents expect schools to provide a safe, secure environment where teaching and leaning is fostered and protected. Given the new federal direction, it’s now time for the state to work with local school districts to give parents what they expect and students what they deserve — schools meeting high standards, with outstanding teachers and rich program offerings.

Clearly, now is the time to “hit the reset button” on reform efforts. Many of the more controversial provisions of the state’s effort to reform education were put in place to align with federal requirements that are now changing. Accordingly, key members of the state legislature are beginning to voice support for a moratorium on new state legislative requirements involving testing and teacher evaluation in accordance with recommendations of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and others. In addition, both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state education commissioner have established advisory councils to help sort out the tangled web of issues that have been created.

We cannot delay in taking advantage of the unique opportunity that the new legislation and a moratorium offer. We have an unusual second chance, a chance to “get reform right.” This time we must approach the issues in an inclusive, collaborative manner. In order to do this we have to identify the key issues and assign responsibility appropriately for addressing each of them.

What are the issues? Simply stated, they include the adoption and introduction of higher educational standards, appropriate student assessment, meaningful teacher evaluation, equitable school finance and state support, turning around failing schools and serving student populations with unique needs. A comprehensive, coordinated approach to addressing statewide needs in each of these six areas should begin without delay.

The Board of Regents and the commissioner of education, in concert with the governor and legislative leaders, should begin to draw up a plan to bring together stakeholders and form work groups focused on each of these areas. The work groups should include nationally recognized experts in the area of focus, as well as parents and seasoned practitioners. The work group looking into school finance and state support should also include representatives of the Division of Budget, the State Education Department, the comptroller and the legislature to assure that their work is tied to the reality of the state’s budgeting process.

Overall coordination of the effort should be within a structure agreed upon by the governor, legislative leaders and the Board of Regents. This isn’t as complicated as it may sound because so much effort has been expended in working through recent difficulties. There are many people who have a wealth of experience in dealing with these issues who would willingly contribute to such an effort.

We already know what the problems are; we’ve already made our mistakes. We should take advantage of our recent experience and immediately begin a comprehensive, coordinated, inclusive and transparent process and “get reform right” this time. The stakes are far too high to delay.

Gary D. Bixhorn is the executive director and Susan A. Schnebel is the president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

Dave Calone has had his eye on the 1st Congressional District representative since the election last November, and he has already seen enough.

Challenger Dave Calone wants to unseat Congressman Lee Zeldin. Photo from Maria Hoffman
Challenger Dave Calone wants to unseat Congressman Lee Zeldin. Photo from Maria Hoffman

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) unseated six-term Democrat Tim Bishop by a wide margin — 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent — but Calone, a Setauket native and Port Jefferson high school graduate, said the new congressman’s voting record has motivated him to throw his hat into the ring.

“He’s out of step with Long Island and what we need to do to grow this economy,” said Calone, who works as CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, a venture capital firm that helps start and build technology companies. “I was disappointed to see Tim lose because I thought he had done a good job. When I saw the [floor] votes Zeldin was taking, I felt it was very partisan voting.”

Government tracking website OpenCongress reported Zeldin has voted along party lines 94 percent of the time since taking office in January. Of those votes, Calone said he took issue with Zeldin’s positions in favor of Republican budget plans that cut Homeland Security funding, and he disagreed with the congressman’s remarks referring to President Barack Obama as a monarch.

Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, said with 17 months until the next election, the congressman would be focusing his efforts on improving the lives of the middle class and not engaging in politics.

“Congressman Zeldin has been working across party lines since day one,” she said in a statement. “He has been recognized as the top Freshman Republican likely to co-sponsor legislation with members of the opposite party. He has also broken from party lines on critical votes to protect working class residents of Long Island. While people make false accusations regarding the congressman, Lee Zeldin is working tirelessly for the residents of Long Island. These people can continue to throw mud and lies about the congressman, but the residents of the First [Congressional] District are smarter than that.”

Calone is director of six privately held companies throughout the country and has helped organize the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. House of Representatives, advocating federal policies that promote job creation through the development of startups and other small businesses.

In that role, he helped launch Startup Day Across America, an event to connect federal officials with early-stage companies in their region. He also founded the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which provides funding to six early-stage companies based on technology developed at Long Island’s research institutions.

Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo
Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo

Calone said his hands-on experience helping Long Island businesses thrive was a driving force behind his decision to challenge Zeldin, and he hoped to apply his experience working to keep his hometown attractive, and retain residents living there.

“What I want to bring is someone who helped start and grow businesses across Long Island,” he said. “This area was a great place to grow up and a lot of my classmates have already left and don’t come back. We need to be a leader in the economy of New York and worldwide.”

Since 2008, Calone has worked as chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. He also helped initiate the county’s first comprehensive plan effort in nearly 40 years.

On the local level, Calone has already garnered support from various political leaders and community activists. His campaign committee is headed by Virginia Capon, president of the Three Village Democratic Club, and he has received early support from Tony Parlatore, chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.

“Dave Calone has never run for office before, but he is a lifelong supporter of Democratic values,” Parlatore said. “His father was an engineer and local chamber of commerce leader and his mother was an elementary school teacher here in our community. He is well respected in our region for his work to cut government red tape and enact policies that support job growth. He also has been a leader in protecting Suffolk County’s natural environment by fighting to protect our waters and has been nationally recognized for creating policies that promote renewable energy usage across Long Island.”

As a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program, Calone worked on prosecuting cases involving international economic crime and terrorism — efforts for which he was named a recipient of the 2003 Attorney General’s Award.

Calone is an honors graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He lives with his wife Kate, a Presbyterian minister, and their three children.

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