Legislators talk schools, opioid crisis

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From left to right: County Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Josh Lafazan; State Senator Carl Marcellino and Assemblymen Ed Ra, Charles Lavine, and Michael Montesano at Glenwood Landing (Photo by Luke Torrance)

Local legislators from the state and county governments gathered in the elementary school theater in Glenwood Landing on Thursday night to discuss the opioid crisis, school regulations and other concerns of local residents.

“I know what it’s like to want to live in this area and try to enjoy all the benefits we have, yet try to balance that with what seems to be a wave of increasing fees and expenses,” said county Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove).

She and Legislator Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) represented the Nassau County government. From Albany, there were state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and Assemblymen Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square), Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), and Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head).

State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) was expected to attend but had to miss the event due to a scheduling conflict.

Lafazan and DeRiggi-Whitton had to leave early for another event, so they each took a few minutes to lay out their priorities. Lafazan wasted no time jumping into an issue he has been talking about since he took office: the opioid crisis.

“This is the bipartisan issue of the 21st century,” he said.

In his remarks, he outlined his plan to combat the crisis, hitting many of the same points he made in an earlier news conference. He wants the county to open a 24-hour care center and addiction crisis hotline, open a recovery center, make substance-free dorms available to college students and train every county employee to use Narcan.

Aside from that, Lafazan said that Long Island was not doing enough to attract young people. He said housing had to be more affordable and public transportation improved.

“They’re going to the city, or Georgia or Texas,” he said. “They’re not staying here. So we need to build, just like we do for seniors, dedicated youth housing.”

He also advocated for term limits for elected officials in Nassau County and closing campaign spending loopholes.

DeRiggi-Whitton also discussed the opioid crisis, mentioning that she had a Narcan training session on March 4 for anyone who wanted to learn how to administer the life-saving drug used for overdoses.

“The opioid situation is a huge, scary thing,” she said. “I’m proud that North Shore schools are one of the first to hold Narcan training.”

After the two departed, the focus turned mostly to schools and whether Albany had more control over them than local representatives did.

One issue was teacher evaluations. According to a state law, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on test scores. Ra said he would appeal that statute.

“I think we need to basically call back and do this the right way,” he said. “This [policy] has changed numerous times by statutes, and… I compare it to Charlie Brown and the football because each time this changes the districts have to have a negotiation, figure out how they’re going to factor in all these things and then a couple of years later there’s a new piece of legislation changing things.”

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