Varvaro says D’Urso out of touch with issues in 16th Assembly district

Varvaro says D’Urso out of touch with issues in 16th Assembly district

 Matt Varvaro, the Republican candidate in the 16th Assembly District, said his Democratic opponent, Anthony D’Urso, has been “less than engaged” on the issues affecting the district during the campaign to replace outgoing Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.
“I think I have laid out very specifically my plans to reform ethics, reform our public school system, reform economic policy in the state,” Varvaro said last week in a sit-down interview with Blank Slate Media. “I haven’t seen any specifics whatsoever coming out of his campaign.”
He was critical of D’Urso’s lack of knowledge on legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jack Martins that aimed to cut off state funding for organizations supporting the BDS, or “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions,” movement, which aims to halt “international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians,” according to
Varvaro, 25, of Port Washington, also criticized his opponent’s comments during an interview with Newsday playing down the impact that heroin addiction is having  on the district.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. This is a huge issue in our community. I know several people I went to school with who are now dead because of a heroin overdose,” he said. “I think that if you’re totally disengaged in these issues facing our community, you can have all the experience you want, but what good does it do if you’re not engaged in the issues that are facing our community.”
In response, D’Urso, 77, said he felt he has performed well in opportunities to present his ideas and declined to respond specifically to his opponent’s comments.
Varvaro, who is making his first run for  office, has a brief but varied political background.
He served as a researcher on Joe Lhota’s campaign for New York City mayor in 2013, as a legislative aide to North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio in 2014 and as a research director for former New York City Gov. George Pataki’s campaign for president last year.
Varvaro said he will not vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, or for third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, and instead only vote in local races.
“I’ve never done this before. This is not something I take lightly,” he said. “I think that if you find both candidates unacceptable, I think that it’s your obligation to send a message by not voting for either one.”
One of the main issues he is hoping to fight in the Assembly is corruption, Varvaro said.
To do this, he suggests setting term limits for elected officials of eight years.
Varvaro said that more elected officials have lost their positions in the last five years because of ethical or legal reasons than in elections and that there needs to be “structural changes” made to ensure there is “fresh blood” in Albany.
He also said that name recognition gives incumbents an advantage that is difficult for a challenger to overcome.
Varvaro said he supports tougher penalties for convicted politicians, including having  pensions stripped and requiring them to pay their own legal fees rather than using taxpayer or campaign funds.
He also said he wants to overhaul the state contracting and grant process, which he said does not subject certain institutions, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional economic development councils, to the same financial disclosure requirements as others.
Reforming the state’s two “very weak, very ineffective” ethics boards, Varvaro said, is another way to tackle politicial corruption.
“I would frankly roll those into one very strong, effective, independent oversight board whose members are appointed on a bipartisan basis and that has broad discretion to open up investigations of elected officials,” he said.
Varvaro said he is favor of eliminating the LLC loophole, which allows an individual or a single entity to give multiple donations to a political campaign, but did not support a limit on outside income for state legislators.
A better idea, he said, would be to require full disclosure of outside income sources and have an ethics board take a “proactive role” in examining those sources.
Varvaro said that if elected, he would like to reform education in the state and implement the use of more technology in the classroom.
“I think that technological innovation has transformed every other sector of our economy and those revolutions have not come to the field of education,” he said. “I think that in this day and age, students don’t just learn by sitting in front of a teacher and being lectured. They learn through interaction, through gaming, through interacting with phones and computers and iPads.”
Varvaro said the implementation of the state’s Common Core education standards was “atrocious” but he supports the reforms the state is currently putting in place, such as making the implementation of standards more manageable and releasing questions from past tests for both students and teachers.
The state’s tax code, he said, needed to be reformed, as the 16th Assembly District is one of the highest taxed areas in the highest taxed state.
“I think it makes the state uncompetitive,” Varvaro said. “It forces a lot of people and businesses into other states that have better economic climates.”
To do this, he said, the state should lower tax rates and get rid of certain tax credits.
As an example, Varvaro said the state gives $400 million a year in tax credits to movie and television show companies that film within the state, so it could eliminate that tax credit and lower the tax rate “across the board” by an equivalent amount.
He also said he was in favor of the state-mandated tax cap, which he said is a “blunt instrument” that forces districts and municipalities to make “tough decisions.”
Varvaro said Cuomo needed to give elected officials, business owners and residents affected by the Long Island Rail Road’s proposal for a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville more information about the project.
“If and when those questions are answered, then yeah, I think we should go ahead with project because I think the benefits to commuters and local businesses and residents will be significant,” he said.
Varvaro said he would support codifying Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court ruling that prevents states from outlawing or regulating abortions performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, as state legislation.
He said he believes that human activity has contributed to climate change and that the most effective way of fighting climate change is through “technological innovation.”
“The most effective way to promote that is through investments in research and development, providing funding for programs at state schools that promote research and development into alternative energy,” Varvaro said.
He also said that Nassau County could fight nitrogen pollution in the Long Island Sound by connecting more properties to a “modern day” sewage system.
Varvaro said that law enforcement resources should be taken away from “lower level” drugs like marijuana and used to  tackle the heroin epidemic on Long Island.
Voters should vote for him to represent the 16th Assembly District, which covers Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Herricks, Mineola and East Williston, he said, because of his status as a newcomer and willingness to fight for change.
“I think when it comes to Albany politics, the best thing you can do is send someone there who is not part of the system, who is not a career politician, who is willing to put big ideas on the table,” Varvaro said.

By Joe Nikic

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