Red light cameras, child sex abuse laws discussed in senate race
St. James resident Peter Magistrale, 24, is taking his first swing at elected office, challenging New York State Sen. and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to represent the 2nd district.
The candidates met and discussed why they think they could best represent their constituents at TBR News Media’s main office.
Magistrale (D) said he is running for office because he wants to tackle political corruption.
“I see government at all levels as a tool for powerful people to get what they want,” he said. Magistrale said he wants to focus on ways to reform campaign finance and laws to protect children in sexual abuse cases, among his other platform issues.
“I don’t believe in vigilantism. I don’t like red light cameras, and I voted against them.”
— John Flanagan
Flanagan said he’s proud to be the first majority leader from Suffolk County, and proud of the legislation he has helped pass, including a package of bills to combat the county’s opioid abuse problem and restoring funding taken from school districts by the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Flanagan has served in the New York Senate for 14 years, and before that served in the New York State Assembly for 16 years.
Part of Magistrale’s campaign has been dedicated to supporting the Child Victims Act, which is legislation that would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, and provide a one-time, one-year window in the statute of limitations to enable victims whose claim was time-barred by the current arbitrary limitations to revive their claim.
“A child who’s sexually abused cannot come forward after they’ve turned 23,” Magistrale said. “That’s not protection. That’s protecting financial interests who do not want the law changed. To say that the current law protects children — it does not.”
Flanagan agreed this is a serious issue, but did not agree with how Magistrale wants to approach the issue.
“There are significant protections in the law right now,” he said. “This is a one-year opener that could bring cases going back 40, 50, 60 years. We have statutes of limitations for very cogent reasons and no matter how emotional a subject may be, witness availability, evidence, all those things have a salutary effect in terms of what happens.”
Stephen Ruth, referred to as the Red Light Robin Hood, is also running against the two candidates for the 2nd district seat, but did not respond to request for comment. Ruth is an outspoken critic against the red light camera program on Long Island and has been arrested for tampering with red light cameras.
“I don’t believe in vigilantism,” Flanagan said of Ruth’s actions. “I don’t like red light cameras, and I voted against them.” The state senator said that while this program was first suggested as a safety issue, it now seems like more of a measure to increase revenue.
Magistrale said he agreed with most of Flanagan’s sentiments.
“I think there is a good enough reason to look at if the red lights were shortened,” Magistrale said. “Shortening a yellow light is just as dangerous, and I think we ought to have an investigation to find out if they really were shorted or not.”
“A child who’s sexually abused cannot come forward after they’ve turned 23. That’s not protection. That’s protecting financial interests who do not want the law changed.”
— Peter Magistrale
The candidates found some common ground on education, and agreed the system is in need of improvement.
Magistrale said he believes Common Core has lost the consent of the citizens.
“We’ve had opt out rates, from grades three through eight, over 50 percent …what does that say?” Magistrale said. “Having standardized exams that reinforce memorization is not a way to create free thinkers. In a time in our history where crimes are being committed in the highest places of government, we need people who will ask questions, not be obedient.”
Flanagan said he’s had many hearings and meetings on the subject throughout the state.
“This is one subject area where I know more than frankly anybody in the Legislature,” he said. “I don’t like the exams … but all those tests are overwhelmingly mandated by the federal government.” Flanagan said despite the problems with Common Core, changes on the federal level need to be put in place to improve the current system, rather than tearing it down and starting over.