Although Morrissey has a number of good and far-reaching ideas to help those in the throes of addiction, the question of how the state will be able to enact those changes remains up in the air. While the goals of increasing access to medically assisted treatment and addiction shelters is something to strive for, the Democraticchallenger also lacks concrete ideas of what the state government should do when it comes to high taxes and keeping people on Long Island.
Fitzpatrick is right on the money when it comes to government employee benefits as those are changes that must be strived for if the state wishes to cut down on spending. While the Kings Park sewers have been held up by partisan wrangling, we do appreciate the assemblyman championing the effort in Albany.
Our endorsement comes with a caveat: During the TBR News Media debate the assemblyman startled us with his belief that the thousands of people currently heading to the U.S. in a caravan from Honduras are, in some way, funded by billionaire George Soros, who often funds left-leaning political campaigns and is a consistent target in conspiracy theories by far-right groups.
We strongly encourage Fitzpatrick — whom we have always thought of as sensible — not to believe this and other far-right wing narratives without unassailable proof, and he should continue to focus on championing real changes in state policy to benefit his constituents instead, as he always has.
The two candidates running for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) and Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey, agree on the area’s problems of high taxes and shrinking youth population. However, they disagree heavily on how the state should work to change it.
Fitzpatrick and Morrissey stepped into the TBR News Media offices where they discussed their varying stances on state and local issues.
Fitzpatrick is running again for his long-held seat on a number of fiscal issues, including
taxes, young people leaving Long Island and cutting back on government employee’s benefits.
“Unfortunately, when you look at the numbers, we continue to be a state in decline. We’re losing 100,000 people a year,” he said.
Morrissey, a local software engineer and project manager from Smithtown, is running heavily on reforming New York’s response to the opioid crisis. This comes after a personal tragedy where Morrissey’s son William died of complications due to opioid addiction in 2016.
“He wasn’t one of the statistics because he didn’t die over an overdose death, and there are many more deaths than most often reported because of this,” the Democratic challenger said. “All levels of government need to do more.”
Taxes/Cost of Living
Fitzpatrick sees a need to deal with union contracts and government employee pension programs, which he said is sapping the strength out of the economy. The assemblyman has campaigned to change automatic pay increases while employers and employees are in between labor contracts as well as pushing for a transition from pensions for 401(k)s for government employees.
“The tax burden is too high,” the assemblyman said. “You have to get every elected official out of the defined benefit retention system. That particular benefit and how we are compensated encourages fiscal irresponsibility.”
The Democratic challenger said that while his campaign has received union support, he would still push for school consolidation of resources. He opined best way to affect the school district’s taxes was to expand Long Island’s commuter infrastructure to appeal to young people and, hopefully, encourage new business growth.
“We need to have smart strategic investments that will have a real cost benefit,” Morrissey said. “If the only thing you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and you can’t cut your way into prosperity.”
Health care/Opioid crisis
On the opioid treatment and health care, the challenger said there needs to be much more done on the state level. He supports medically assisted treatment for all drug or alcohol users who need it, opening up an addiction high school through the BOCES system, and opening up at least 11 more recovery centers, for which he suggests the state should get pharmaceutical companies to pay.
The incumbent said he feels it would be near impossible to get the pharmaceutical companies to pay for these programs, while agreeing it would help, he said funding from state government is never guaranteed.
Morrissey said he also believes in health care for all and supports the New York Health Act, which passed through the state Assembly but did not reach the floor of the state Senate. He said he would look to give the state more negotiatinpower with pharmaceutical companies.
“I think it’s a great system that needs improvements — something rolled out gradually,”
Morrissey said. “Big pharma has so much wealth, we should be able to negotiate on the process.”
Fitzpatrick said he disagrees with a health care for all program, and especially the New York Health Act. He would instead advocate for use of Health Savings Account programs, one where people can save money for health-related emergencies only.
“The system is not broken — it needs to be repaired and modified,” he said. “You want a system that attracts the best and the brightest doctors.”
Film showcased at SBU’s Staller Center for the Arts
By Talia Amorosano
The wait is over. On Sunday, June 24, an integral piece of U.S. and Long Island history will be revisited in the geographic location where much of it actually took place. At 7 p.m., the Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, will host the first major public screening of “One Life to Give,” a film about the friendship and lives of young American heroes Benjamin Tallmadge and Nathan Hale, whose actions would lead to the creation of a Revolutionary spy ring based on the North Shore of Long Island.
Presented in the Main Theater, doors will open at 6:45 p.m. After a message from publisher Leah Dunaief, a short behind-the-scenes documentary will be shown followed by the main film screening. After a message from the creators, the evening will conclude with a Q&A with the cast and crew. Admission to the event is free, courtesy of TBR News Media. No reservations are necessary.
The film’s co-producer and writer, Michael Tessler, describes the film as an exploration of historical events with a human focus. “After spending several years researching Benjamin Tallmadge and the other heroes featured in our film, I began to look at them not as detached names in a textbook, but more so as real people, with real stories that deserve to be told,” he said.
Dave Morrissey, the actor who portrays Tallmadge in the film, describes his character as a “22-year-old kid,” who, despite his relative youth, is “focused” and “grounded,” propelled into action by the death of his brother at the hands of the British. “When something like that happens to you, you turn into a machine … into something else,” said Morrissey. “If you channel the energy and do what’s right, the possibilities are endless.”
By focusing a metaphorical macro lens on the multidimensional characters of Tallmadge and Hale, the film traverses consequential moments of American history: the Battle of Long Island, the anointing of America’s first spy and the events that would lead to the creation of the Culper Spy Ring, a group of men and women who risked their lives and status to gather British intelligence for the Revolutionary cause.
Though Tessler notes that the film is, at its heart, a drama, he and the film’s director and co-producer Benji Dunaief stress the cast and crew’s commitment to accuracy in their interpretation of historical events.
“The history comes second to the narrative in most [other film adaptations of historical events],” says Dunaief. “Our approach with this film was the exact opposite. We wanted to see where we could find narrative within [pre-existing] history.”
“Many of the lines from the film were plucked directly from the diaries of the heroes themselves,” stated Tessler. “We worked closely with historians and Revolutionary War experts to achieve a level of accuracy usually unseen in such a local production.”
The fact that many scenes from the film were shot in the locations where the events of the real-life narrative took place helped give the visuals a sense of truthfulness and the actors a sense of purpose.
“The location took production to the next level. It’s really crazy how closely related the sets we used were to the actual history,” said Dunaief, who specifically recalls filming at a house that contained wood from Tallmadge’s actual home. “It helped to inspire people in the cast to get into character.”
Morrissey recalls spending a particularly inspiring Fourth of July on Benner’s Farm in East Setauket. “We were filming the war scenes with all the reenactors … in the cabin that we built for the set … in the town where the battles and espionage had really happened. There were fireworks going on in the background while we sang shanty songs. It was amazing.”
Though locational and historical accuracy played a large role in making filming a success, ultimately, Dunaief and Tessler credit the resonance of “One Life to Give” to an engaged and participatory community. “This was a community effort on all accounts,” says Dunaief, noting the roles that the Benners, Preservation Long Island, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the Three Village Historical Society and others played to bring “One Life to Give” to fruition.
The fact that the screening will take place at the Staller Center, in the heart of the community that helped bring the film about, represents a full-circle moment for the cast and crew. “We’re calling it a screening but it is so much more,” said Dunaief. “It is a fantastic example of how the community has stood by this film, from beginning to end.”
“We’re beyond honored and humbled to use a screen that has seen some of the greatest independent films in history,” said Tessler. “Stony Brook University has been a wonderful partner and extremely accommodating as we work to bring our local history to life.”
Tessler projects confidence that viewers will leave the screening with a similar sense of gratitude. “This story shows a part of our history that I think will make the audience very proud of the place they call home.”
The future of ‘One Life to Give’:
Michael Tessler and Benji Dunaief plan to show the film at festivals around the country, to conduct a series of screenings on Long Island, and to partner with local historical societies that can use it as an educational tool. Additionally, a sequel to “One Life to Give,” titled “Traitor,” is already in the works. Filming will begin this summer.
All photos byMichael Pawluk Photography
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