Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore said he doesn’t consider himself a politician, but more of an advocate for the people he represents. He said he hopes that mentality will help him earn another term on the job.
“People don’t realize how much government has to offer,” he said. “Yes, you pay the taxes, but you also enjoy the services. My priority is to provide those services.”
This is the fourth time Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is running in the 4th Legislative District, which includes Selden, Centereach, parts of Ronkonkoma and Farmingville, Coram, Holbrook, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Grove, Medford and Port Jefferson Station. His Democratic opponent, Jonathan Rockfeld, has not actively campaigned for the position.
With an absentee opponent, Times Beacon Record Newspapers had the chance to sit down with Muratore alone and discuss his past term and future plans, if re-elected to a fourth term.
For Muratore, ensuring public safety was one of the top issues he wanted to work to address. Over his last term, Muratore proposed a resolution to monitor the use of drones in the county, citing past incidents in California and Connecticut where drones were problematic — planes carrying water remained on the ground during a wildfire in California, impeded by drones taking photos. In Connecticut, a man put a 9mm automatic pistol on a drone before it took to the sky.
His initial resolution proposed banning drones on beaches from May 15 to Sept. 15, as well as around public buildings in the county. The resolution was watered down before it was approved, 17-1, after legislators and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who is also running for re-election, took issue with the bill. If re-elected, Muratore hopes to revisit the issue and possibly tighten restrictions.
“Something’s going to happen, I just know it,” Muratore said. “[But] I hope [nothing happens] before we can revamp this drone bill.”
One idea he has is to make it mandatory for those flying drones to become members of the American Model Association, which would help track the owner of a drone and provide insurance if the drone harms an individual.
Increasing staffing within the police department is another issue on Muratore’s list. He mentioned that the county has fewer officers now than it did 10 years ago and said the limited staff makes it difficult to address problems like drug abuse.
“Drugs are like a tree: If you really want to kill a tree … you start at the roots,” Muratore said. “By going out and making arrests for small amount of heroin [and] small amounts of marijuana, you’re just trimming the leaves.”
Drug dealers are the stem of the issue, according to Muratore, but insufficient police staffing prevents officers from conducting longer, in-depth investigations.
In a fourth term, Muratore also plans to continue his involvement with the Red Light Safety Program, through which cameras at traffic signals help catch and ticket cars that run red lights. While county Democrats and Republicans have not always seen eye-to-eye on the issue, with Republicans calling the ticketing program a money grab, Muratore wants to continue talks to reform it. While he voted in favor of initiating the program a few years ago, he disagreed with the county’s supposed manipulation of fees associated with the program.
“If you’re getting tens of thousands of tickets and you increase the fee by $5, you’re getting half a million to a million dollars, maybe more,” Muratore said. “That’s just money-grabbing right there.”