Joshua Lafazan said that if re-elected to the Nassau County Legislature, he is going to maintain his top priority of fighting the opioid epidemic.
“We are losing more people than we’ve lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War, every single year,” Lafazan said in an interview with Blank Slate Media.
To deal with the problem, Lafazan wrote “Timothy’s Law,” which established a 24-hour hotline staffed exclusively by substance abuse counselors, and developed the “Nassau C.A.R.E.S.” app, which allowed residents to search for treatment centers based on ZIP code.
The efforts point to Lafazan, who became Nassau’s youngest ever legislator in 2017 at 23 years old, stressing local issues.
“In the bills that I’ve passed, they have all been local,” he said. “I’m a local lawmaker, and I think we all have to remember that.”
Lafazan, an independent from Syosset who caucuses with the Democrats, is running in the 18th District, which encompasses East Hills, Roslyn Heights, Greenvale, Glen Cove, Bayville, East Norwich, Glen Head, Old Westbury, Mill Neck, Locust Valley, Muttontown, Jericho, Syosset and Woodbury.
His is running against Paolo Pironi, a Republican.
Other issues important to Lafazan include helping the 5,000 Nassau County veterans that are homeless, soon to be homeless or housing insecure. To help, he put together the “Dignity for our Heroes” package which includes the exploration of building transitional housing for veterans in need at the Mitchell Field Complex Housing Service Center.
Lafazan stands with the Democrats in the Legislature when they say whoever wins the next election needs to institute an independent commission for redistricting to prevent any partisan gerrymandering.
“Regardless of whichever party is in the majority come redistricting time, it should be a nonpartisan independent process, and that’s for the sake of our democracy,” Lafazan said.
When asked on what basis redistricting should be done, Lafazan said it should be up to the nonpartisan commission.
The legislator did say that any map that appears to be unfair could be vetoed by Nassau Executive Laura Curran.
“I will cast my vote for an independent redistricting commission. I will not cast my vote for an unfair map,” Lafazan said.
Earlier this year, Lafazan sponsored a bill that would allow the county attorney to sue on behalf of police officers if they were harassed or injured because of the fact they are first responders. The law, drafted with language from the New York state penal code, would make it a hate crime to “harass, menace, assault or injure” first responders, where they could also be allowed to sue for damages and legal fees.
Curran expressed concern in a veto letter, saying “that the law would intimidate free citizens from engaging in peaceful demonstrations without fear of retaliation.” She also said there was “no consensus from elected officials” that the legislation was necessary.
Lafazan said he trusted the guidance of Attorney General Letitia James’s office, which expressed concern over free speech implications of the bill, and he then withdrew support for it in its original form.
“What we understood as harassment was fear of legitimate injury or death,” Lafazan said. “We saw a violent string of assaults on officers in the past couple of years so we took language that was already in the penal code and applied it.”
In regard to the county, the legislator said he plans to vote for Curran’s proposed budget due to relief measures that have been implemented and the fact that Nassau County can afford to cut taxes.
“Nassau will be able to be in a solvent, strong fiscal position in the years to come,” he said.
Lafazan said he believes his focus on his district foreshadows his performance if re-elected in November. He said as a county legislator it is important for him to maintain a priority on what is relevant to his constituents as opposed to national narratives.
“Local government is where the majority of your life is affected, and the local government is where things are supposed to get done,” Lafazan said. “I’m a local lawmaker.”